Michigan vs. Michigan State.
Football is the first rivalry that comes to mind when thinking of these two schools. An argument could be made about hockey as well, but most would probably consider that mainly just a state of Michigan affair.
However, add a new reason to get pumped up if you are a fan of the maze and blue or the green and white.
What could possibly make these two schools more competitive, you ask? Well, that would be basketball. Well, it’s more of a revival of Michigan’s program that will hopefully bring about another reason for the students to forgo studies, get loud, and spread the hate. And by hate, I mean love.
And by love, I mean love to hate.
Michigan hasn’t been a super competitive team in Big Ten basketball for a few years now. Scandals and sanctions aside, they unofficially haven’t been in the NCAA tournament since 1998.
Officially, according to the powers-that-be in the NCAA, the Wolverines haven’t appeared in the NCAA tournament since 1989.
But this article isn’t about the past misjudgments of specific individuals and teams. Instead, it’s about the potentially promising future head coach John Beilein has for this team.
There is an opportunity for a fresh start to a rivalry that can mean healthy things for both programs, but especially for Michigan. Beilein has this team on an impressive turnaround after just recording 10 wins last season.
Michigan has lost their fare share of games that they probably could, or should, have won against Penn State, Wisconsin, and arguably even a close game against Ohio State on Jan. 17.
But they have held tough against some strong opponents, and as most are aware, upset some heavy favorites in UCLA, Duke, and Illinois. They only lost by eight to No. 1 Connecticut on Saturday, and even led at the half.
Leading the charge is Manny Harris, who ranks second in the Big Ten in scoring at 17.5 points per game. DeShawn Sims leads the league in rebounding at 7.5 per contest. The Wolverines will need him to grab anything and everything off the boards tonight if they intend to win this game.
If they give any space to the Spartans around the rim, they’re done.
The Spartans are one of the most dominant on both ends of the court in the country. They have out rebounded their past 13 opponents, and are 17-3 when out-rebounding. The Spartans have a +13.0 rebounding margin in Big Ten play, which doesn’t bode well for Michigan. Also, MSU has won 15 of the last 18 games overall, including five of eight in Crisler Arena.
But the last time the game was held in Ann Arbor, Michigan defeated Michigan State, 67-56. Key Spartan player, guard Drew Neitzel, suffered from an illness and the offense suffered as well, but the big key to that game? Michigan out-rebounded the Spartans, 33-30.
Ironic in how that will be key again tonight.
Fighting fire with fire, MSU has the talent to hang offensively with UofM’s Harris. That fire is super sophomore guard Kalin Lucas, who is a candidate for Big Ten Player of the Year.
Michigan State already leads the conference in scoring, but Lucas must continue to bring the elevated game he has shown over the past 12 contests. In that span he s averaging 17.9 points.
Junior forward Raymar Morgan will be out for this game, so Lucas must continue feeding his energy through the rest of the team. Durrell Summers must match the 13.4 ppg average he has for Big Ten road games, but that shouldn’t be a problem as he has averaged 15 points his past six games played.
While the Spartans are ranked ninth in the country, expect MSU head coach Tom Izzo to be his usual explosive self all over the floor tonight. He will bring the intensity and will not allow his players to slack against a dangerous opponent.
Oh, and who could forget this little fact? The Spartans are 5-0 on the road this season in the Big Ten. First time in their history. In those games they are averaging 74.8 points. Not an easy task for the Wolverines to stop.
The Spartans are top dogs in the Big Ten right now, but an upset at the hands of an up-and-coming Michigan team could set back title thoughts. It can happen, and if it does, expect this game to have a huge impact on the future between these teams. It could get ugly, and fans couldn’t be any happier.