Dueling column: Team fell short of sky-high expectations
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NEW YORK — From the start, this year’s team had a “Final Four or bust” mantra to them. It wasn’t just fans and media giving them that label — it was the players themselves, too.
So, what’s the verdict at the end of the season?
Well, the Spartans fell one game short of a Final Four, so what was the other option again? Sorry, but it was a bust.
Is it nice they reached the Elite Eight? Yes.
Is it awesome to win a Big Ten Tournament over your rival? So awesome.
But this team wasn’t just built for that. A team with four pro-caliber players can’t be content with only winning a conference tourney. If anyone is happy with the end result of this season, they are settling for mediocrity — especially with this elite roster.
This MSU team was loaded with talent, and the trophy shelves should have been loaded by the season’s end as well.
The season would look better with a Big Ten regular season title, but injuries kept that from being the case.
And that’s what makes this flubbed season so odd in the sense that it’s not all MSU’s fault.
How can you blame Keith Appling for hurting his wrist?
What wrong did Adreian Payne do sitting with a foot injury?
You can point fingers at Branden Dawson for punching a table, but you’re to tell me you haven’t hit anything out of anger just once? The injuries were a factor during the season, and it was hardly a controllable issue. However, the way they flamed out of the season could have been controlled.
Up nine points with 16 minutes left against UConn, the Spartans were headed to Texas.
Until they started being incredibly lazy with the ball, too loose on defense and oddly stagnant on offense.
UConn also made all the smart plays at the end of the game and won nearly every 50-50 ball down the homestretch.
MSU just didn’t look like a team that was worthy of a Final Four on Sunday. It’s a shame, because this team proved it had the fire power to do so leading up to the game.
Now, the famous streak of every Tom Izzo senior going to a Final Four has been laid to rest. Izzo can say the streak “doesn’t mean anything” to him all he wants, but that streak was MSU basketball.
It was unheard of to go four years without seeing MSU on the biggest stage of college basketball until Sunday — when they lost with one of their best rosters since the 2000 title team. Instead, MSU only has one cut-down net to show for the season, and that came from a three-day tournament.
When we all look back on this team in ten, twenty or thirty years we won’t be saying “Wow, look what they accomplished.” Instead, we will be wondering how much more they could and should have done in this “Final Four or bust” season.
Matt Sheehan is a State News basketball reporter. Reach him at msheehan @statenews.co m.