SPOKANE, Wash. -- Three weeks ago, the expectations for the Michigan State basketball team were pretty low. Riddled with injuries and unable to find any semblance of chemistry, it seemed as though the Spartans were a team destined for an early NCAA tournament exit.
A few wins and Big Ten tournament title later, they’re the No. 4 seed in the East Region. The expectations soared as fans discussed how under-seeded the Spartans were, how they were no worse off than Michigan or Wisconsin, which both received No. 2 seeds.
Then, President Obama picked the Spartans to win it all in his annual "Barack-etology." For Michigan State, it was fine to know that experts and analysts were picking the Spartans to cut down the nets, but when the president of the United States knew the names and stats and stories of the Michigan State team, it struck some members of the team.
However, the Spartans were quick to temper that feeling with the knowledge that Obama’s pick doesn’t give them any kind of an advantage heading into their second-round game against Delaware on Thursday.
“That’s an honor for him to say that,” Gary Harris said. “It’s not going to be handed to us. We have to go out there and prove it.”
“I’m glad that he has such high expectations,” Appling added. “But nothing has been accomplished yet.”
And historically, Obama’s vote of confidence hasn’t generally translated into on-court victories. In his six years of picking the tournament, only once has he correctly chosen the eventual champion -- in 2009 with North Carolina.
Even so, every member of the team is appreciative of the support. Even Michigan State coach Tom Izzo joked about the potential sway the president could have on the tournament.
“I’m trying to get ahold of the president right now and see if he has any pull with the officials since he picked us that high,” Izzo said.
Obama doesn’t have any pull with NCAA officials, but it surely doesn’t hurt the Spartans' locker room vibe to know that the president is going to be sporting green and white over the next month.