SPOKANE -- Michigan State players were already feeling confident when they arrived here for Thursday's opening-weekend East Regional game against Delaware at Veterans Memorial Arena.
The Spartans, ravaged by injuries much of the year, are playing their best ball since opening the season 18-1. Michigan State just won the Big Ten tournament and enters the tournament as the hottest No. 4-seeded team in recent memory.
Many pundits have picked Michigan State to make a deep tournament run. Add to that list President Obama, who picked Michigan State to win it all in his sixth annual bracket picks with ESPN's Andy Katz.
Obama has Michigan State defeating another No. 4, Louisville, for the title.
Junior forward Branden Dawson said he was watching ESPN when his jaw dropped.
"It was just bizarre that Barack Obama picked us," Dawson said Wednesday at a news conference. "And he was talking about Keith [Appling] and injuries and us getting back and just playing together as a team. So I think it was great."
Michigan State (26-8), because of illness and injuries, has started 15 different lineups this season. Eleven Spartans have started at least one game and six players have missed multiple games.
Sophomore guard Gary Harris said, no disrespect intended, that it doesn't matter what the president thinks.
"I'm glad that he has such high expectations for us," Harris said, " but nothing has been accomplished yet. ... It's not going to be handed to us, we got to go out there and prove it."
Besides, Obama doesn't have a great track record in the tournament. This is the sixth bracket he's picked with ESPN. He's only nailed one champion - -North Carolina in 2009.