ST. LOUIS — His voice strained after 40 minutes of yelling, Michigan State coach Tom Izzo remained steadfast that his second-seeded Spartans had the makings of a national championship contender.If only they could have survived Round 1.“We just got beat,” Izzo managed to croak out after a 90-81 loss to No. 15 seed Middle Tennessee State on March 18 ended their pursuit far sooner than expected. “But I want everybody to know this team had a chance to win a national championship. I don’t feel one bit different.”In that case, what does the future hold for the Blue Raiders?Reggie Upshaw had 21 points and Giddy Potts finished with 19 for Middle Tennessee State (25-9), which became the eighth No. 15 seed to knock off a No. 2 since seeding began in 1985. The last time it happened was 2013, when Florida Gulf Coast beat Georgetown on its way to the Sweet 16.The Blue Raiders will try to do the same against No. 10 seed Syracuse on March 20.I’ll be honest with you, in my wildest dreams I didn’t think they’d hit some of the shots they hit,” Izzo said. “We didn’t guard them good, but man, they made some shots.”The Spartans (29-6) were a trendy pick to win it all after capturing the Big Ten Tournament title. Part of it had to do with the experience of Denzel Valentine and the seniors, and part of it had to do with Izzo’s impressive postseason pedigree.The got sent home without ever leading in their only game. “I’m more mad and disappointed because I know what this team could accomplish,” Valentine said. “It kind of fell apart, and it just stinks right now because I know the capability our team had.”The Spartans’ Matt Costello matched a career-best with 22 points, but it wasn’t enough to offset Valentine’s miserable afternoon.The senior had 13 points and 12 assists, but he also had six turnovers — one of them coming with the Spartans trailing 79-76 and less than three minutes to go.Michigan State twice had chances to tie the game after that, but Valentine missed an open 3 from the top of the key, and Bryn Forbes missed another. The Blue Raiders eventually scored on back-to-back runouts to establish some breathing room, then coaxed the final few seconds off the clock.Darnell Harris and Perrin Buford scored 15 apiece, and Jaqawn Raymond had 11, as the Conference USA champion Blue Raiders won their first NCAA Tournament game since 1989.Not that they haven’t made a statement before: They beat Kentucky in the first round in 1982.“We wanted to win this game as bad as anybody wanted us to win,” Potts said.The Blue Raiders never seemed intimidated by the Spartans, roaring to a 15-2 advantage in the opening minutes and slowly getting the Syracuse and Dayton fans in the building on their side.Michigan State chipped away at its deficit but never managed to make an extended run. Valentine was saddled with two fouls and rendered ineffective most of the way, and the backcourt of Forbes and Eron Harris combined for four turnovers while managing a single point in the first half.Valentine’s frustration reached its apex after he committed back-to-back turnovers in the second half. During a stoppage in play and with the Blue Raiders leading 51-43, Valentine stalked back to his team’s huddle and proceeded to slam his hand into the floor.Michigan State slowly trimmed the lead to 65-64 on a basket by Costello with eight minutes to play, but the Blue Raiders scored on their next six trips down floor to hold their lead.They held onto it the rest of the way, too. It was the first time the Spartans, heavily favored to reach the Final Four, were bounced from the tournament in the first round since 2011.“There’s such great college stories this time of year, every year,” Blue Raiders coach Kermit Davis said. “We looked at it and said, ‘Guys, why not Middle Tennessee?’ It’s going to be something after this weekend. Everybody is going to have a great, great moment — a great weekend.”(DAVE SKRETTA, AP Sports Writer) TweetPinShare0 Shares
By Diana Marcum, FRESNO BEE COARSEGOLD – This foothill hamlet is bursting with signs of autumn: golden hills, auburn leaves rustling in the breeze, acorns falling on roofs so fast and furiously they sound like gunfire. And tarantulas. “They’re all over the roads. You’re either swerving to miss them or swerving to hit them, depending on how you’re feeling,” says Rose Sartoris, owner of Rose’s Frosty on Highway 41. AD Quality Auto 360p 720p 1080p Top articles1/5READ MOREGame Center: Chargers at Kansas City Chiefs, Sunday, 10 a.m.She’s joking about the last part. Locals in this town of 17,000 in Madera County don’t approve of running down the not-so-itsy-bitsy spiders. As most everyone around here can tell you, mid-October to mid-November is tarantula mating season. In Coarsegold, it’s considered very bad form to off one of the thousands of hairy, multilegged arachnids out in pursuit of passion. The tarantulas on the roads are males on their way to the burrows of females. Tarantula trysts involve locking hooks and fangs, and the females sometimes kill and eat the males, but people in Coarsegold find it a romantic season. Indeed, the beginnings of the Coarsegold Tarantula Festival – the 10th annual event is today – trace back to a newcomer who moved here from Oakland and didn’t properly appreciate tarantulas. “In 1979, I was pulling out of the driveway with my three little girls and I saw this thing,” recalls Tarantula Festival founder Diane Boland. “I backed right over it, and the neighbor came over screaming, `I can’t believe you people who move up here from the city and start destroying things.’ I felt terrible.” Years later, Boland started the Tarantula Festival as a way to pull visitors into her shopping village of artisans and to educate creeped-out newcomers. The festival begins with a best pumpkin dessert contest. In a nod to the festival icon, a favorite event is the hairy leg contest, one for men and one for women. “Don’t even ask. It’s a mountain-woman thing,” Boland says. The man and woman deemed to have the hairiest legs by virtue of thickness of growth and texture of individual hair each receive a shaving kit and a $25 gift certificate to The Mining Company Restaurant. People figure Chuck over at the vacuum shop is a shoo-in for the men’s division. “He’s a very hairy man, and he’s won before,” says Sue Byers. The festival’s highlight and culminating event is the tarantula race. Contestants must provide their own creepy crawler. So far this year, Boland has caught only one tarantula, and it’s different from tarantulas she’s had before. “They really do have personalities. The others have all been nice and cozy – not this one,” she says. She muses aloud that maybe she caught him before he made it to his conquest, leaving him edgy. For the races, each tarantula crawls through dryer tubes. Boland says the tarantulas need to be separated or they fight. She is willing to demonstrate how the racing works, except the Tarantula Festival founder is squeamish about actually touching her tarantula. “They feel like velvet, and I’ll scoop one up without thinking about it if I think it’s in danger, but normally I don’t do spiders,” she says. No one else working on readying the festival stage will volunteer, so Boland delicately positions the tarantula in the tube and blows on it to get it moving. After the festival, contestants set their tarantulas loose in woodsy places far from traffic.160Want local news?Sign up for the Localist and stay informed Something went wrong. Please try again.subscribeCongratulations! You’re all set!