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Success against Michigan could mean national success for Michigan State.
Michigan is fresh off a national title game appearance.
The loss to Louisville may have stung a bit, but the Wolverines benefit by going almost all the way and are considered a contender this year.
In recent years, the Big Ten's only other real national threat other than Michigan State was Ohio State and, at times, Wisconsin and Illinois. Adding another juggernaut—and an in-state competitive hatred with Michigan—to the fold only provides more preparation for the Spartans.
Spartans coach Tom Izzo plays Michigan at least twice a year. With the way things are going—and how brackets shape up—the Spartans could face the Wolverines in the Big Ten Tournament title match, or even as far down the road as the Final Four or national championship.
Izzo said the duel is now a "good" one (via MLive.com's Diamond Leung).
I liked them better when they were down [Izzo joked]. Michigan-Michigan State's a rivalry. I've been on both sides of the rivalry. I've been on it when we couldn't win a game, and then I've been part of it when they didn't win many games. Those really aren't rivalries. I think now every game is a game, and it doesn't matter what one team has done or the other, it's probably going to be a good game. I guess that's what you hope.
If you're going to have a good rivalry, then you've got to have two good teams. Right now, we've got two good teams. Hopefully that means that'll be some great water cooler conversations throughout the state
Two "good" teams?
How about two excellent teams?
The in-state war just a got little more interesting and meaningful. There is more on the line, more bragging rights to be claimed.
Izzo is notorious for scheduling heavy hitters like Kansas, Syracuse, UConn and Duke in pre-Big Ten play. The conference is stronger than ever, so maybe he's scheduling Michigan- and Ohio State-like competition before setting foot on a Big Ten floor.
Follow Bleacher Report's Michigan State Spartans basketball writer Adam Biggers on Twitter @AdamBiggers81