By Tony Wittkowski | Business Reporter | The Herald-Palladium
EAST LANSING — Green and white flags were at half mast Friday.
Michigan State fans across Southwest Michigan were left stunned after the No. 2-seeded Spartans men’s basketball team lost 90-81 to Middle Tennessee in the first round of the NCAA tournament.
Some fans were left speechless, while others had a few things to get off their chest.
Berrien Springs resident Scott Wilkinson wore his Spartans hat while watching the game unfold at the Buffalo Wild Wings restaurant in St. Joseph.
“I’m pretty shocked to be honest with you,” he said, minutes after the game ended. “I had them going all the way in my bracket. Middle Tennessee got off to a hot start and we never recovered.”
Though Michigan State rallied to within three with less than five minutes to go, Wilkinson said he began to realize his Spartans were not going to come back.
“At that point nothing happened, nothing seemed to click,” he said. “Too many turnovers, not enough buckets.”
Friday’s tough loss reminded Wilkinson of the time George Mason upset Michigan State in 2006. Only this year’s loss seemed more painful.
As for the remainder of March Madness, Wilkinson said he’ll still watch – “but it won’t be as much fun as it should be,” he said. “My heart’s not in it anymore.”
St. Joseph resident Charmae Sanders and Tennilly Slavens of Benton Harbor also watched the Spartans play Friday. The MSU alumni shared a beer in each other’s grief.
While Sanders said her “green heart” died a little Friday, Slavens was more critical of the team.
“As a realistic fan, they didn’t deserve to win that game,” she said. “It was an awful 40 minutes to watch.”
Tom Gratsch of Stevensville filled out two brackets this year and had the Spartans going all the way in both.
The loss came as a surprise to Gratsch – Michigan State had won 13 of its last 14 games, including the Big Ten Tournament crown.
“After seeing them win the Big Ten Championship, and the way they have been playing, I had them going all the way,” Gratsch said. “I will continue to cheer for Big Ten teams, my girlfriend is a big IU (Indiana) fan.”