A lot of basketball teams can look good in stretches, hitting a few shots in a row or stopping their opponents for a couple of minutes. The great teams do those type of things for 40 minutes.
And just like a stretch doesnt make a game, one great year doesnt lead to the label of a great program.
But with the Spartan mens basketball team (19-11 overall) making their fifth consecutive NCAA Tournament appearance this month, discussion is being raised on whether they belong to be mentioned with the top programs in college basketball.
In MSU head coach Tom Izzos seven-year tenure as head coach, the Spartans have gone to the postseason each year, going to the National Invitational Tournament in his first two years before heading to the NCAAs the past five years.
I want to be known as the team that plays in March, Izzo said.
And college basketball enthusiasts nationally are taking notice.
Michigan State has closed the gap on a lot of programs, ESPN college basketball analyst Dick Vitale said. Theyve done a phenomenal job.
But Izzo still envisions his program as being a few steps away from closing the gap on programs like Duke and other consistent contenders.
Ive always had great respect for (a school) like Temple, Izzo said. Everybody says no matter how they do, theyre incredible in March.
I think thats kind of a neat thing. I hope to get that.
But he said it takes more than a couple of years to earn that type of fear and respect in the postseason.
Three years isnt having it, (Temple head coach John Chaney) did it over a zillion years, Izzo said.
But with another great recruiting class on the way for next season, Vitale said the Spartans are close to being able to not compare themselves to other programs.
Theyve got a great recruiting class coming in next year, he said. They just have to worry about being the best they can be and not worry about anyone else.
Former Spartan head coach Jud Heathcote said MSUs ability to get back into the postseason after a turbulent year helps cement its place among the elite.
I think theyre in (the class of elite programs), he said. Naturally, when you lose (Zach) Randolph and (Jason) Richardson (to the NBA), the bottom could have dropped out.
And Tom didnt let the bottom drop out.
The reason why it didnt was that the Spartan head coach refused to not contend.
Thats what he feels, that they built the program to a level where theyre not going to tolerate being mediocre, Heathcote said.
With all the injuries and inexperience the Spartans had to work through for much of the season, their progress can definitely be called a success, Heathcote said.
I think that when you talk about the elite programs, you have to talk about Michigan State - theyve been to the Final Four three straight years, and theyve won a National Championship, Heathcote said. And then when theyre supposed to have a really down year, theyre still in fifth place in the conference and they are still going to the NCAA Tournament.
I think thats more proof that this is an elite program.