It’s now been three days since the Michigan State Spartans‘ 2013-14 season came to a close. And as more time passes, the events that took place throughout the year and the way that it ended are still hard to believe.
This was supposed to be Tom Izzo‘s year. This was supposed to be the second team in the future Hall of Fame coach’s MSU tenure to deliver a national championship. The team was loaded. Keith Appling and Adreian Payne were back for their senior seasons. Future NBA lottery pick and crazy-talented swingman Gary Harris returned for his sophomore season, too.
Instead, what this year — Izzo’s 19th with the Spartans — amounted to is what the coach called “my most frustrating season ever.” MSU was hampered by injuries almost from the get-go. Harris missed time early. Additionally, Payne and Branden Dawson missed key stretches during Big Ten Conference play. The most significant injury, though, was unquestionably the one to Appling’s wrist.
Harris, Payne and Dawson were all able to recover and play integral roles in leading the Spartans to a Big Ten Tournament championship and trip to the Elite 8. Unfortunately, Appling wasn’t. His right wrist injury virtually shut him down with regards to being a viable scoring option and his confidence on the court was clearly shot. The senior point guard was having nothing short of a phenomenal season prior to his injury, yet after its occurrence, MSU’s No. 11 was barely recognizable.
Ultimately the team’s health situation caught up with them and was simply too much to overcome.
However, injuries are not and should not be an excuse. Make absolutely no mistake about it; Shabazz Napier and UConn deserved to beat the Spartans this past Sunday in New York City. Were they the better and more talented team? No, not even close. But what they were was the team that was more together and furthermore, it appeared as if they really wanted it more.
From a Michigan State perspective, that happened far too often this season. This year’s roster was immensely talented, but frankly, it lacked toughness and consistency, far more so than any other Izzo coached team I can ever remember. At times their sense of urgency was nonexistent and their effort could be best described as subpar. Injuries aside, that’s unacceptable.
So as this year closes, next year eagerly awaits. The Spartans are set to have far lower expectations to begin the 2014-15 campaign. Gone are Payne and Appling and probably Harris too. Dawson could even make for a fourth departure.
With that said — and as we’ve seen — expectations mean nothing. Plenty of talent remains in East Lansing and as always, Izzo is as good as there is. I fully expect the Spartans get back to being a tough, physical minded team that brings a consistent effort each and every night. At least I hope so, because this season, that certainly wasn’t the case.
Matthew Sturgeon is a College Basketball Writer for RantSports.com. Follow him on Twitter @OfficialSturg27