Trading Places: Wolverines and Spartans

Posted on Posted in Michigan Basketball

Historically, Michigan is known for their football. The Michigan State Spartans are known for their basketball, until now.  Both used to dominate their respective sports, no longer are having that affect, it’s just the opposite.  Well, the “dominating” word is probably a strong word, but the idea is that each team was really, really good. 

 As we all know, after Lloyd Carr retired, the football program has been in a bit of a downturn.  The Rich Rodriguez era was a complete failure, and while Brady Hoke has had really only one successful season since he began his tenure back in 2011.  To say, so far, if the Hoke experiment is a failure would be wrong, but after this coming season, if the record doesn’t show improvement from the past two seasons, a different “F” word will be the topic of conversation, and we all know what that word is: fired!

Last year, Michigan State beat Ohio State in the Big Ten Championship, which gave them an opportunity to play in the Rose Bowl against Stanford.  They won 24-20.  The Spartans under Mark Dantonio, since 2006, have a very solid record of 63-29, with a prolific defense under Pat Narduzzi.  Ever since Mike Hart, one of my favorite running backs to play at Michigan, said the words “little brother,” something seems to have clicked with the Spartans team.  Ironically enough, those words were said right around the time Dantonio was hired.


Now, let’s move to basketball.  Michigan State, since 1995 under Tom Izzo has a record of 458-180, with six final four appearances and National Championship in 2000.  Michigan’s record under John Beilein is 142-92.  Obviously, the records are significantly different; Michigan State clearly has the upper hand in basketball.  However, that may have changed. Let’s be clear here: Michigan State is not a bad basketball team.  They’re great.  As long as I can remember, they’ve never really been bad.  Even at the start of the year, MSU were given high praise by ESPN experts, and fellow college basketball analysts.  Some believe, if and when the Spartans get fully healthy, could make a run in the NCAA tournament.  I’m no expert, and while I cannot fault those people who believe Sparty could make a run, I believe the Wolverines have what it takes to do it again, even without Mitch McGary.  

Michigan swept the Spartans this year, the first game gave most fans a heart attack, the second game had a much more comforting feel little more comfort to it, winning 79-70.  Michigan’s recent success against Michigan State and the Big Ten, for that matter, is a sign of great coaching, great kids who strive to be the best.  Michigan recruits well, recruits kids to the style of Michigan’s game, and they don’t care whether he’s a five star, or a zero star.  If these kids have the ability to play, Beilein and the coaching staff will scope them out and potentially develop them into greatness.  As Michigan fans, we often get frustrated with our teams, that’s understandable, but they’re young (don’t say it, Brady Hoke), always learning, and an extremely resilient group, as we saw yesterday against Purdue.  As long as Beilein is at Michigan, we shouldn’t expect anything less.


Michigan basketball is thriving, and Michigan football is struggling.  Michigan State football is winning, and Michigan State basketball is no longer the only team in Michigan standing in their way.  Is something historically wrong here? Yes, something doesn’t seem right. Often, when we think of Michigan, we think football. When we think Michigan State, we think basketball.  It’s time to think the other way around.  Hopefully, once again in the near future, we don’t think of Michigan as just for basketball (weird, huh?), we think of both, again.  By the way, let me just respond to something former Spartan, now Golden State Warrior Draymond Green said.  He said “We run this state.” Michigan State doesn’t “run this state.” 

They share it. 
Derek Devine
Institutional voice of Alma College during the day, Michigan fanatic at night. Taking TBHR to the next level one post at a time.