Michigan State's season seems tricky to assess.
Even for its coach, that's true.
"It was not as bad of a year as some will make it out to be, but it's still disappointing," Tom Izzo told The Associated Press on Saturday night. "But in this day and age, it's hard to even get to the Sweet 16. Soon, it will be tough to just get into the tournament because there are so many good teams."
The Spartans were ranked No. 8 in the preseason poll and were expected to win the Big Ten, thanks to the performance of conference player of the year Drew Neitzel.
By the time their uneven season ended, they had finished fourth in the conference and were routed by top-seeded Memphis in the NCAA tournament's field of 16.
But Michigan State (27-9) won three times as many games as it lost, including a win over Texas, for the fifth-highest total in program history and was undefeated at home. It also advanced to the regional finals for the seventh time in 11 seasons, an achievement topped only by Duke during that span.
While Neitzel didn't live up to high expectations, the senior guard joined Mateen Cleaves and Scott Skiles as the only Spartans with at least 1,500 points and 500 assists. He also was the first since Cleaves and Morris Peterson to be on an All-Big Ten first team in consecutive seasons.
"It's been a great ride," Neitzel said.
Michigan State did appear to underachieve this season, but certainly didn't seem to flop.
"It's hard to figure out how you feel after a damn good year," Izzo said Friday night after Memphis beat the Spartans 92-74 in a game that was more lopsided than the score indicated.
Michigan State started the season hoping to win its first Big Ten title since 2001, but will have to wait at least another year.
The Spartans seem to have a shot at earning hardware next season.
Neitzel and center Drew Naymick, who set a school record for blocked shots, are the only departing seniors.
Izzo's coaching tree, which includes six current Division I head coaches, might grow this offseason. Assistants Mark Montgomery and Dwayne Stephens are among the possible candidates at Detroit, which has been searching for a coach since Perry Watson resigned a few weeks ago.
A strong nucleus will hope to hang a new banner in the rafters at the Breslin Center.
Raymar Morgan averaged a team-high 14 points and Goran Suton had a solid season, averaging 9.1 points and 8.2 rebounds.
"Suton and Morgan have to become more and more consistent, and I think that will be the big key whether they work in the offseason to become consistent," Izzo said. "Being good wins you games. Being consistent wins you championships."
Kalin Lucas led the freshmen with many strong performances while classmates Chris Allen and Durrell Summers showed flashes of promise.
In all, 10 players with some experience -- including Travis Walton and Marquise Gray -- will be back and three prized recruits will join them.
Delvon Roe, a 6-foot-8, 220-pound forward from Lakewood (Ohio) St. Edward, was regarded as one of the top high school players before having season-ending surgery on his right knee in December.
Saginaw high school star Draymond Green, a 6-7 forward, will push the returning big men for playing time. Korey Lucious, a 5-10 guard from Milwaukee, will give Izzo the option of putting a blazing backcourt together if he plays him with Lucas.
"All three of those freshmen are highly ranked players," Izzo said. "The best thing that will happen is our freshmen will become sophomores and that's usually how they improve."