College basketball is so corrupt, the FBI itself felt it had to investigate it, busting a bunch of coaches this past fall. But that’s not the case here in Michigan, where two of the sport’s greatest leaders happen to work. It’s also home to one of the game’s most underrated rivalries.
Entering Saturday’s game between Michigan and Michigan State, the Spartans had just snapped their 14-game winning streak -- and lost their number-one ranking with it -- by losing to Ohio State. But they were still ranked fourth, with the best three forwards Tom Izzo has ever had in his 23 years coaching Michigan State, and that’s saying a lot.
If you’re a fan of college basketball, there’s nothing better than March Madness, the massive 68-team single-elimination tournament that determines the national champion. It begins on Wednesday and captivates the sports world for the next three weeks. And thanks to millions of dollars being poured into office pools each year, it captivates a lot more than just sports fans who are filling out their brackets in an attempt to predict the winners.
However, if you’re a fan of daytime TV or productivity in an office environment, then this might not be your favorite time of year.
The madness of March is here, and Michigan and Michigan State both have big games today in the Big Ten tournament. Michigan needs to beat Big Ten champion Indiana just to get into the NCAA tournament, while Michigan State is playing for a Big Ten title, and a national title after that.
Last year, the Wolverines looked promising -- until key players went down with injuries. The Wolverines finished ninth in the league, missing the big dance altogether, and didn’t even get an invitation to the junior high prom (also known as the National Invitational Tournament).
Once Tom Izzo got Michigan State’s basketball team rolling in the late ‘90s, the Spartans dominated the state for more than a decade.
Izzo’s teams have earned 16 straight NCAA invitations, seven Big Ten titles, five Final Fours, and one national title, in 2000. Along the way, Izzo took 18 of 21 against the Wolverines, who have had four different head coaches during his tenure.
But what a difference a few years make. Michigan basketball coach John Beilein has beaten the Spartans six of their last eight meetings, and returned the long-dormant program to its previous heights.