For at least the past five years, the members of the student section at Michigan State, which is known as the “Izzone,” have campaigned that they, and not Duke’s Cameron Crazies, are the best basketball fans in the nation.
“I think the nation now knows that the Izzone is the best student section in the nation. We clearly beat the Cameron Crazies,” former Izzone member Rob Myers told the Detroit Free Press in 1999 after a Blue Devil victory over head coach Tom Izzo’s team in the Final Four. “My voice is almost gone. I was tense and yelling a lot.”
Their efforts have had some success, and the Izzone has often been mentioned in the same breath as the Cameron Crazies. “Duke has its ‘Cameron Crazies’ and Michigan State its ‘Izzone,’” a 2003 Iowa State Daily article announced.
I’ve been to Michigan State and seen this “Izzone” in person, and I can say in good conscience that it is a mediocre cheering section at best. The fans in East Lansing do not hold a candle to Duke’s, and in fact, I’ve been more impressed with the luster at non-basketball schools like Virginia and Florida State when the Blue Devils play at their respective arenas.
First of all, the Breslin Center’s architectural design does not create the conditions for a formidable home court. The gymnasium seats 14,659, but it feels much bigger. Its dome-like roof creates lot of free space, space that drowns out some of the fans’ efforts.
The arena also features a distracting Jumbotron. Many of the fans in the upper levels simply watch the game on this oversized television, and the student section is often lulled watching replays instead of focusing on cheering for its team.
Michigan State fans like to brag how their student section “surrounds” the court. This is only partially true. The students, who normally all dress in white T-shirts, only wrap around a fraction of the hardwood; fat-cats who wouldn’t give a standing ovation for a buzzer-beating shot in the National Championship game are spread around the rest of the floor.
The Izzone does not have as much cohesion as the Cameron Crazies in regards to collective cheers, and the most astonishing thing about the student section is that it will go quiet from time to time. During every timeout, the Breslin Center goes quiet as the fans relax with the players. This almost never happens in Durham, as most opposing teams have to move their huddle to the middle of the court so coaches can shout instructions to players.
And I didn’t see the Michigan State fans in person against some low-level team that the Spartans easily blew out. I was in East Lansing when they played DUKE!
This was the top-10 matchup for which fans were salivating—they wanted their basketball team to beat the Blue Devils, and they wanted to show a national audience that their fans were better than Duke’s.
I’m sure a Michigan State supporter would blame the fans’ performance on the Spartans’ horrible showing, as they lost 72-50 to the visitors from Durham. But from the get-go I was shocked at how mediocre the Izzone was, both in the pregame festivities and the early moments of the game.
Any objective person who watched both the Dec. 3, 2003, Duke-Michigan State game in East Lansing and the Nov. 30, 2004, Blue Devils-Spartans contest at Cameron would come the same conclusion: The fans in the Izzone are inferior to the Cameron Crazies.
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