Across Northwest Indiana on Saturday night, sports fans cheered loudly for their favorite team in the NCAA tournament's semifinals. Pubs and sports bars were packed.
But they weren't cheering for Indiana, Purdue or Notre Dame. Most were raising their voices for the Michigan Wolverines as they beat Syracuse to advance to tonight's NCAA championship game against Louisville.
In Atlanta, a large number of regionites were inside the Georgia Dome wearing Maize and Blue.
"We were amazed, it's been surreal," Lake Central boys basketball coach Dave Milausnic said. "We're sitting there at halftime and talking about how three Duneland kids had 18 points at halftime of the national semifinals."
Chesterton's Mitch McGary, Crown Point's Spike Albrecht and Lake Central's Glenn Robinson III are all freshman on this Michigan team. And all three of found themselves on the national highlight reel as the Wolverines have made this remarkable run.
These three young men are why so many TV watchers across Northwest Indiana are becoming Michigan fans for the first time ever.
At least 50 area fans are in Atlanta pulling for Big Blue. Crown Point boys basketball coach Clint Swan is one of the many. It is his sixth NCAA Final Four. He was amazed that 75,000 fans watched Saturday night's game.
"When I was a kid I was running up to the players trying to get an autograph," Swan said. "Now, I have a former player and two former opponents having people line up to get their autographs.
"It's awesome. A crowning achievement."
On Sunday afternoon, the Michigan players were given about 45 minutes to meet with family and friends. Swan was there with five former Crown Point basketball players to talk with Albrecht.
Those 'Dogs were Stephen Albrecht, Jake Burkholder, Kyle Hanaway, Mike Lipton and Chachi Albrecht.
"We'd talk to Spike for a couple of minutes and then a bunch of people would come up for his autograph," Swan said. "Then, I'd look over and the same thing was happening to Glenn and Mitch. This is a great thing for these kids and for Northwest Indiana.
"I'm pretty sure we all will be Michigan fans (tonight)."
Milausnic and his wife, Robyn, have a relative who lives near Atlanta so they are staying there along with Swan. When Crown Point plays Lake Central next year, Swan joked he would give Milausnic one of his timeouts.
Milausnic and his wife were sitting under an umbrella at a table and chair taking in Bracketville when several old-time Lake Central fans approached to talk to him.
On Sunday, he spent some time with Robinson and his family.
"When Glenn and I talk 90 percent of it is not about basketball, just small talk," Milausnic said. "He talked about his impression of playing in front of 75,000 people. He said the team could still communicate very well.
"It's because they were so focused, I believe."
Even though both Swan and Milausnic are long-time basketball coaches who care about every play and practice, they have a new appreciation of watching a game this way.
"I'm more like a parent in the bleachers rooting for their kid," Milausnic said. "I feel more like a fan right now."
"I am sure all of Northwest Indiana are big Michigan fans right now," Swan said. "I know I am."