Michigan's John Beilein doesn't hate Michigan State, but he sure wants to beat the Spartans
ANN ARBOR -- Michigan's John Beilein and Michigan State's Tom Izzo really aren't anything like each other.
Beilein tends to stay more reserved, while Izzo wears his heart on his sleeve.
Izzo's teams are known for physical play and rebounding, Beilein's are known for skill and shooting.
Beilein's only been at Michigan since 2007, Izzo's been at Michigan State since 1983.
There's basically only one thing in common between these two coaches: Respect.
Izzo told reporters in East Lansing on Monday that it's "illegal to like your rival, but it's not illegal to respect them." Beilein said the same to reporters in Ann Arbor hours later.
Beilein doesn't hate the Spartans, he doesn't hate Tom Izzo -- but he absolutely wants to win.
"(Izzo's) seen a lot of Michigan coaches," Beilein said with a smile Monday. "I love Michigan. I love everything Michigan stands for and one of the things Michigan likes to do is beat Michigan State.
"But it's not like I hate Michigan State or I don't like Michigan State -- I like Michigan to win. That's how I go about my day. But I know it means a lot to our fans. And if it means a lot to our fans, it means a lot to our coaching staff."
No. 4 Michigan and No. 8 Michigan State will tangle as top 10 foes for the first time Tuesday (9 p.m., ESPN) in East Lansing.
The game will play a part in deciding the Big Ten regular season championship and it'll offer bragging rights for a short time -- as both squads will meet again in Ann Arbor in three weeks.
It's important and it's exciting, but according to Beilein, it can't be everything.
When he took the Michigan job in 2007, the Wolverines had gone 3-13 against MSU since 1998. Beilein says he heard questions from fans about how he planned on changing the momentum of the rivalry against Michigan State.
But he never saw it that way. True to form, he was more focused on the small steps.
"How can you get this thing (turned around) so you can take over from (MSU's dominance in the state)," Beilein recalled on his radio show Monday. "I said 'you know what, they're pretty good.' Taking over Michigan State isn't the deal here. The deal is, let's just get Michigan good enough to where people want to see us no matter what -- because we're good.
"And that's what we're trying to do. We're trying to beat everybody we can beat, but let's just concentrate on Michigan becoming good -- and if you're good enough, you're going to beat State."
Since taking over in 2007, Beilein's Wolverines have gone 3-5 against the Spartans, and have wins in three of the last four meetings.
He admits that this wasn't much of a rivalry when he took over, but is hopeful that his team's improvement -- coupled with Michigan State's continued excellence -- will make this a memorable matchup for a long time.
"It wasn't the rivalry that it had been in the past, there was a pronounced Michigan State dominance," Beilein said. "But both programs continue to get better and better. We had a lot of getting better to do.
"We're getting there. But still, we have a tremendous respect for the Michigan State program -- as long as Tom and his staff are there, they're always going to be strong. And hopefully we'll be just as strong."
As far as players are concerned, Michigan's roster currently features five freshmen that have never been a part of a Wolverine-Spartan tilt, and there's only two scholarship players (Jordan Morgan and Jon Horford) that hail from the state.
But, that doesn't mean this isn't important to them.
On the contrary.
They get it.
"Both programs don't like each other, but the respect is there," Tim Hardaway Jr. said. "Everybody gives it their all, winning or losing, you want to do the best you can.
"This is a game where egos are set aside and you're playing for your team -- that's how basketball should be played."
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