Tom Izzo didn’t board the bus until he posed for every picture, shook every hand and greeted every fan that wanted it.
The head coach and the men’s basketball team were sent off by a small crowd of less than 50 students and supporters Wednesday afternoon outside Breslin Center as they departed to the Sweet 16 of the NCAA Tournament in Indianapolis. No. 3 seed MSU tips off against No. 2 seed Duke at 9:45 p.m Friday.
For food science freshman Brett Brothers, Wednesday was an opportunity to support a program he’s been rooting for since his childhood.
“I love Michigan State basketball,” Brothers said. “Ever since I was a little kid, I’ve been watching them. To see them off is a special experience.”
Brothers wants MSU to beat the Blue Devils on Friday and expects them to face a tough opponent in No. 1 overall seed Louisville in the Elite 8. Ball security is the key for a Final Four run, in his opinion.
“We have a lot of athleticism with (sophomore guard/forward Branden) Dawson and (junior center Adreian) Payne,” Brothers said. “We can run or slow it down versus a team like Wisconsin. So, definitely our versatility.”
Among the youngest fans seeing the Spartans off was Anthony Schellie of Williamston, Mich. He pleaded to make the trip with his mom and sister from a nearby track meet to see his favorite player board the bus, Payne “because he’s really tall and he does amazing dunks.”
“We heard it on the news and thought why not?” Anthony’s mom Alison Schellie said. “… (Anthony) watches it all.”
Payne has become a fan favorite amongst this year’s team, apparently.
DeWitt, Mich., resident Judy Miller and her husband have been longtime fans of Spartan basketball as MSU alumni. Miller said although her spouse predicted MSU to win the national championship, she looks forward to following the team the rest of the way.
“We like the chemistry and the way they’re growing together this year,” Miller said. “And Adreian Payne — I love Adreian Payne.”