It's sometimes difficult to forecast the fate of the Michigan State Spartans.
Underrated teams overachieve, while teams expected to reach the Final Four prematurely fall out of the NCAA tournament—that's the nature of the game.
In 2012-13, there was plenty of hype surrounding Tom Izzo's program. Freshmen Gary Harris and Denzel Valentine fueled Spartans followers' optimism, while the returns of Branden Dawson, Adreian Payne, Keith Appling and Derrick Nix afforded a sense of comfort.
This year, like others, would be a year in which the Spartans would yet again be a force to contend with, would shine without former star Draymond Green and make a healthy run into March (or some thought).
The Spartans were right in the thick of the Big Ten regular-season championship race. They weren't completely amiss without Green. They reached the Sweet 16, too.
Not an awful year by any stretch of the imagination.
However, Friday's 71-61 Sweet 16 loss to the Duke Blue Devils stopped Michigan State in its quest for a seventh Final Four under Izzo. Duke exploited Michigan State's weaknesses and stamped its ticket to the Elite Eight, while the Spartans were sent packing for East Lansing.
No matter how it's dissected, analyzed or broken down, there's no doubting that Michigan State did everything in its power to dance for as long as possible. Winning two games in the tournament with battered and bruised stars like Harris and Keith Appling may have been the best-case scenario.
In this slideshow, we'll do things a bit differently than past grade-related pieces. Instead of assigning grades to areas like rebounding and scoring, we'll focus more on the individual aspects, leadership and meaningful stretches of the season.