Michigan State entered the 2013-14 season with a few clearly defined goals, all of which would result in banners being raised to the Breslin Center rafters.
Enduring a flurry of injuries and struggling late in the season thwarted the first of those goals as rival Michigan claimed the regular-season Big Ten title. With March underway, the next goal now is in focus and the Spartans are primed to try and prove the regular season result was not the real Michigan State team.
"We've definitely got something to prove," senior Adreian Payne said. "We didn't play great parts of the season. The beginning of the season, we played real good. It's just now trying to get back to that level.
"We've proved we can do it already. We need to find a way to get back to it." p>Appling said it partially stems from having to cross off the Big Ten regular-season title from their list of goals.
"Now that that's out of the way and we can't accomplish that anymore, it's on to the next," he said. "We are just going to do whatever we can to go to Indy and win the Big Ten tournament championship."
The Spartans opened the season 18-1, but a loss to Michigan on Jan 25, sent the them spiraling to a 5-7 through the rest of the regular season. While the 23-8 record is nothing to scoff at, the expectation of what could have been does linger.
Coach Tom Izzo said there is no doubt in his mind the Spartans would have a different record if his squad had been healthy throughout the season. With injuries to key contributors Payne, Keith Appling and Branden Dawson, the Spartans were playing with different lineups each game seemingly.
Still, the Spartans finished just one game worse than they did last season when they posted a 24-7 mark heading into the Big Ten Tournament.
Harris said the goal remains the same as last season, win the tournament, but he thinks more has been put into it.
"I think as players, we've put more into it because we feel like we didn't play as well as we want to during Big Ten season," he said. "We feel like it's our chance to go out and show who the best team in the Big Ten is."
With that chip on the shoulder, there is a sense of unfinished business as the postseason has arrived. Whether it resulted from being healthy and wanting to prove something to the college basketball world or just wanting to see what they are capable of within themselves, the chance for a new goal has brought a new vigor.
"It's a new season," Harris said. "Win or go home. We have a chance to come out here and win a championship.
"I think everybody is refreshed and with the right mindset, I think we are ready to go down to Indy."