Final Four streak not just about seniors

Impact of falling short of Dallas not reserved just for Keith Appling, Adreian Payne as no one on the Spartans roster has played beyond an Elite 8.

Michigan State's loss Sunday brought an end to an impressive streak of Final Four appearances for four-year players under Tom Izzo.

It was a streak that lived on its final chance twice previously to get Keith Appling and Adreian Payne the opportunity to keep it alive Sunday.

"As the game got closer and closer to ending, it was on my mind a lot, every huddle," Payne said.

But the Spartans came up short, falling 60-54 to Connecticut and are headed back to East Lansing without a flight to Dallas scheduled later in the week.

"The Final Four, that meant a lot to me, to my teammates as well," Appling said. "For us to come up short and have the opportunity to be so close to get there just hurts so bad."

Like his fellow point guard Appling, junior Travis Trice was emotional about the loss in the Michigan State locker room.

"I don't even know how to describe how they're feeling right now," Trice said. "It's gotta be worse than what I am."

It is a streak that focuses on seniors, but for Trice and fellow juniors Branden Dawson, Russell Byrd and Alex Gauna – and the rest of the Spartans roster – they have not seen a Final Four either.

"It is disappointing and I think we played hard, fought hard, but it was disappointing," Dawson said. "We know that we wanted those guys to make it to the Final Four so bad and we wanted to get there as a team."

For Dawson and sophomore guard Gary Harris, it also could have been their final attempt at a Final Four as a decision now looms to head to the NBA or come back to college.

So there certainly is a sense of being a part of the streak regardless of class, but Harris also said it is as much their fault as the seniors.

"We're part of that streak, too," said Harris, who had a team-high 22 points. "It's not a three-man game, we're all part of that streak. Not just them."

But many of the Spartans will have another chance at getting back to the Final Four, including Izzo.

The coach said it wasn't too difficult to see the streak end and that is important, but more to the players.

"The streak is more important to the team and the players than it is to the coach," Izzo said. "I've been in Final Fours that we didn't deserve to be in I kept the streak alive and I can think of Final Fours we should have been in that we weren't. In the end it always works out.

"Disappointing? Yeah Things like that aren't why I coach. You don't get a banner for that."

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