R.I.P. to da factoid. The run is over. And what a run it was. Over 30 guys. Plus another dozen and a half guys who made Final Fours despite not sticking around all four years.
It's worth remembering that this was a pretty death-defying run. If the 2005 team loses to Duke or Kentucky, it would never have become a factoid. If the 2009 team loses to Kansas or Louisville, the factoid would have lasted less than a decade.
This time around, it was not to be. The NCAA tournament is designed to disappoint. Of the 16 teams given 1-seeds over the last four years, only three have made it to the final weekend. Tom Izzo hacked the code for a good decade and a half. But it's not as easy as you might think being elite.
Here are the team's accomplishments over the last three seasons, with Keith Appling as the starting point guard and Adreian Payne playing a major role:
--85-26 overall record
--38-16 conference record
--One Big Ten regular season title
--7-1 Big Ten Tournament record
--Two Big Ten Tournament titles
--7-3 record NCAA tournament record
--Three consecutive Sweet Sixteen appearances
Here's how those numbers stack up against the four Blue Bloods over the same period:
If you want to judge this group a failure, you can only do so against the program's own jury-rigged standards (or Kentucky's standards, I guess, if that's how you want to roll). This group won just one fewer NCAA tournament game than the six MSU teams from 2002 through 2007 did. (Also: One more Big Ten title and two more Big Ten Tournament titles.) Trade in one of the 2012 or 2013 wins for a win in Sunday's game and the narrative shifts dramatically.
I choose to stick to my preseason proclamation:
If this Spartan squad finishes short of a national championship, it won't be a failure, but it will be a disappointment.
Be disappointed that as good a crack as we're going to get at that second Izzo national championship didn't pan out. Be disappointed that Appling and Payne don't get to take the same legacy with them that the guys before them did. Be disappointed that the number of banners hanging at Breslin won't increase next year.
But failure? The 2011 season was a failure. This team won 29 games--tied for the fourth most in the Izzo era. Adjust that for the plethora of injuries as you see fit.
The end comes very quickly in college basketball. You get, at most, a few minutes to brace yourself for it. This end came even more abruptly than it usually does. The pain is real. But so are the accomplishments that came before it. Factoids be damned.