We've been here before.
In the 2010 Final Four, MSU shot 42 percent, scoring 50 points in a loss to Butler. In the 2012 Sweet 16, MSU shot 28 percent, scoring 44 points in a loss to Louisville. On Friday night, MSU shot 40 percent, scoring 61 points in a Sweet 16 loss to Duke. The final score was 71-61.
Three of the last four seasons, MSU has sputtered out of the tournament. The other is the year-of-which-we-do-not-speak, and they shot 40 percent in that finale before a late crazy rally made the game close.
At one point in Friday's second half, MSU had three baskets, seven turnovers and 10 fouls. It really was painful to watch. Again.
MSU trailed by one at halftime, which was great, given foul trouble. With about 15 minutes to play, MSU trailed 41-38. The Spartans were keeping it around five points, but the offense went dry. After a Payne dunk with 18:12 to go, MSU went nearly 15 minutes scoring one bucket. There were free throws in there, but the offense became a complete mess with missed shots and turnovers. Duke didn't play great to pull away, but they played well enough.
A spurt at the end was a brief sign of life for MSU, but Duke having been in the double-bonus for some time, the Blue Devils hit their free throws to keep MSU away. It was not a fun game to watch for anyone who likes good basketball.
Now, the biggest story for MSU fans is going to be the officials. They didn't cost MSU the game. The total fouls were close before MSU's late fouling on purpose. The final free throws were close. What effect the officials did have, though, was prevent any flow to the game but calling so many on both sides. MSU could never get anything going on offense. You could see Izzo's frustration after the game that Duke didn't get MSU's best shot.
Branden Dawson, Derrick Nix and Matt Costello all had two fouls in the first half. The tight whistles continued all game. With both teams always in foul trouble, the scoring had to come from the outside, and it did for Duke.
Seth Curry hit a number of open 3s, but he hit a few really, really tough ones. That wasn't on the refs. On the other side, Gary Harris went 2-for-11 from the floor, missing a number of open looks. MSU couldn't get anything out of its scoring guard, and any hope for him was lost when he appeared to re-injure one of his shoulders on a hard foul. Adreian Payne was subpar, going 3-for-10 from the floor and 1-for-5 from 3. He's not going to get offensive rebounds when he shoots so many 3s. Nix went 3-for-10. That's not on the officials.
It would have been nice to see MSU and Duke be allowed to play a real basketball game. That could have been fun to watch. But MSU was a limited offense all season, and it caught up with them when combined with tight officiating and some pretty good defense from Duke.
This was actually pretty surprising. As bad as MSU's offense was, Duke's wasn't great, either. One difference was that Duke was 24-for-26 from the free-throw line, while MSU was 18-for-24. While MSU's turnover rate wasn't that bad, they coughed it up seven times in the second half, with several of them being offensive fouls. MSU had just six assists on 17 baskets.
While MSU did a good job keeping Duke off the offensive glass, MSU only grabbed a quarter of its misses. Payne had two offensive rebounds, Dawson had zero. MSU had to dominate the glass to win, and it didn't. Also, both teams having FT rates around 50 percent is ridiculous.
-- Keith Appling led MSU with a quiet 16 points on 5-for-9 shooting. But he had zero assists to four turnovers. Still, he was MSU's best offensive player, which says something.
-- Adreian Payne had 14 points, but on 10 shots. He went 3-for-10 from the floor and 7-for-7 from the free-throw line. He had 10 total rebounds, but he needed more than two on the offensive end. He reportedly suffered a back injury in practice Wednesday, which could have affected him.
-- Derrick Nix had nine points on 3-for-10 shooting. As expected, he had trouble with the length of Duke in what turned out to be his final game. Nix did have nine rebounds (four offensive), though. Not the greatest finale, but that's how college basketball works. It was great to see him grow as a person and a player, and he will be missed. It will be great when he gets his degree in a few months. Maybe he can make a basketball career overseas, if he so chooses.
-- Gary Harris was never able to find anything, scoring six points on 2-for-11 shooting including 2-for-8 on 2s. He wasn't able to find many good looks, and missed the ones he did have. Maybe his worst game of the year.
-- Travis Trice had eight points on 3-for-3 shooting, but generally had another rough outing defensively. No assists, steals or turnovers in 16 minutes
-- Branden Dawson finished the season on a bit of a disappearing streak. Four points on 2-for-3 shooting and just two rebounds in 23 minutes. He was never the same after taking that shot to the face against Michigan. Hopefully having an actual offseason to work on ball-handling and shooting will help him take a major jump forward next season.
So the 2012-13 season ends with a bit of a whimper. It was a season of growth, and one that might have exceeded expectations a little bit. But when winning 27 games and losing in the Sweet 16 is a disappointment, you know your program is in a good place.
Moving forward, it certainly isn't a good look for Izzo going back into recruiting for 2014. Izzo is now 1-7 against Krzyzewski. He probably has some ground to make up, now.
As for the current roster. This was an interesting comment from Gary Harris.
Gary Harris saying MSU will lose just 1 player, Nix, seemed surprised when asked about leaving early. Says he hasn't thought of it.— Joe Rexrode (@joerexrode) March 30, 2013
Payne said something similar to MLive.
"I think we're going to be good next year," Payne said. "We've got everybody coming back, and Nix is the only senior, so it's just going to make us that much better."
This would seem to indicate both plan to return for next season, despite Harris being a potential lottery pick and Payne being a potential first-round pick. With both players, I don't think either decision they make would be a bad one. There are pros and cons with both sides.
If Harris and Payne do come back, that would have to make MSU one of the favorites for 2014, and it might be one of Izzo's best chances at a second national championship. They'll have to make the Final Four or four-year players will have left the program without a Final Four for the first time under Izzo.
As in December, a major opportunity to vault the program closer to Duke comes and goes. Disappointing.
But next season is far away. For now, you sulk, be thankful that Sweet 16s are the minimum, put your tail between your legs and try to remember the good memories from the season.