The days of the Michigan State Spartans demolishing the Michigan Wolverines on the basketball court could be long gone, says Spartans legend Morris Peterson, a key member of the 2000 national title "Flintstones" team.
For the first time in the rivalry's rich history, both teams are ranked in the Top 10 of the AP poll (Michigan is No. 4, Michigan State is No. 8). Peterson has fielded calls, texts, tweets and emails from former teammates and ex-Spartans who are just as eager to watch the drama unfold.
"I’ve been anticipating this game for the past week," Peterson said just hours prior to the 9 p.m. tipoff at the Breslin Center in East Lansing. "This is a game that you mark on your calendar. I remember playing in these games...man, if you can’t get up for this game, I don’t know what game you can get up for."
Peterson remembers the Spartans' resounding 114-63 Senior Day victory in 2000. Now that Michigan has rekindled its program, similar poundings may be a thing of the past.
"When we were playing, we kind of dominated the rivalry when I was there," Peterson said. "I think tonight, the teams are matched up well—the backcourt—you have an experienced backcourt , some of the best point guards (Michigan's Trey Burke, Michigan State's Keith Appling) in the league and in the country."
Peterson says both Appling and Burke present significant problems for defenders. Burke is the Big Ten's second-leading scorer with an average of about 18 points per night, while Appling is 10th with just over 14 points per outing.
It's an either/or situation, says Peterson. Checking Appling and Burke is a challenge.
Pick your poison.
Who wins tonight?
"I think both guys (are talented)—what they bring for their team (is valuable)," Peterson said. "They bring toughness; they’re the point guards—they have to be tough for their teams. You have two of the best battling it out tonight. Appling has been playing well and showing leadership—he’s playing with a lot of tenacity.
As far as Burke, he’s tough. This is one of the better matchups that you want to see, two of the better point guards in the nation going against each other."
With both programs in the national spotlight, the state of Michigan stands to benefit from the historic Wolverines-Spartans showdown. It's not often that both programs are considered Final Four threats in the same season.
"Basketball is big here in this state," Peterson said. "I’ve been across the country and the world, and we love our basketball. Everybody’s eyes will be glued to this game. You have Michigan playing well. Michigan State will prove themselves—they're playing for a lot tonight: a run at the Big Ten championship."
So how does MoPete seeing tonight's battle of wills ending?
"I'm going 72-65, Michigan State," he said.
Quotes from Morris Peterson were obtained firsthand by Adam Biggers during a 15-minute phone interview on Feb. 12, 2013.
Follow Bleacher Report's Michigan State Spartans basketball writer Adam Biggers on Twitter @AdamBiggers81