Tonight’s the first Michigan-Michigan State game since 1998 where both teams will be ranked.
Since then, the Spartans have been to six Final Fours, won a national title and cemented themselves as one of the nation’s premier programs. Meanwhile, Michigan’s on its third coach and seems to finally have restored its program after sanctions that occurred at the end of Steve Fisher’s tenure.
But if you think their divergent paths mean there isn’t much of a rivalry between the two programs, think again.
“Do I respect John Beilein? Tremendously. Do I respect their school? Tremendously,” Michigan State coach Tom Izzo said. “Do I like them? Not one bit.”
That’d somewhat expected coming from a UP kid. But it extends to Izzo’s players, mostly because they were swept by the Wolverines last season.
That was a massive relief considering Michigan had lost the previous six games to MSU.
“I never want to lose to Michigan,” Spartans forward Draymond Green said. “And when I leave here, I never want to see Michigan State lose to Michigan. That’s not going to change the rest of my life. This year is where it starts.”
As for tonight, the Wolverines (14-4) may have a small edge because they’re hosting, but the Spartans (15-3) are the better team. They’re deeper, more talented and have an Izzo-esque defense and an offense that’s underrated among most onlooker.
Then again, both teams are coming off road losses. Maybe all bets are off.
“They come out swinging. We’re going to come out swinging too,” Michigan forward Zack Novak said. “This is Michigan-Michigan State. We’re going to come out with all we’ve got. I’m sure they’re going to come out with all they’ve got. That’s why the game’s fun to watch.”
- Michigan miss Morris? Not with Trey Burke running the show
- Spartans had best non-conference run since ‘01
You also can follow me on Twitter @MikeMillerNBC.