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Posted on Wed, Jan 18, 2012 : 5:59 a.m.

Full circle: Beating Michigan State now an expectation for the Michigan basketball program

By Nick Baumgardner

In 2003, it was big news. In 2006, it meant an awful lot. In 2011, it was a major step.

But in 2012?

Well, now it's an expectation.

"Nothing against Michigan State, but there's a lot of great teams in the Big Ten," Michigan basketball senior Stu Douglass said following the Wolverines' 60-59 win over Michigan State on Tuesday. "It's good for us, but ultimately, we've got higher goals."

Multiple times Tuesday night, Douglass and fellow senior co-captain Zack Novak were asked how monumental it was to have three straight wins over in-state rival Michigan State.


Michigan senior Zack Novak celebrates after Michigan's 60-59 win against Michigan State Tuesday at the Crisler Center. "We're to the point now where (beating Michigan State) is something we expect to do," he said after the Wolverines' third straight win in the rivalry.

Melanie Maxwell |

They were asked what it meant to have a three-game winning streak over the Spartans for the first time in 14 years, what it said about the current state of their program and how it could impact the future of Wolverine basketball.

Ground-breaking? Earth-shattering? Culture-shifting?


Just part of the process.

"We're to the point now where (beating Michigan State) is something we expect to do," Novak said. "My first two years, it was like, you've got to do it first -- you've got to do it one time.

"After you get that first one, you get a taste of it, but then you've got to learn how to win."

And with that, the state of Michigan officially has its biggest basketball rivalry back.

For 13 years, from 1998-2010, this matchup wasn't even a contest. Michigan State rattled off eight straight wins by an average margin of 22.5 points from 1998-2002.

And after Michigan nipped the Spartans by a bucket in 2003, Michigan State responded by pasting Michigan in each of the next four meetings, again by a double-digit average margin of victory.

The Wolverines got two more wins over the next four years, but they went down as afterthoughts. The Spartans continued to exert their will, winning six of seven in that stretch.

In the early 2000s, the Michigan basketball program was more worried about self-imposed sanctions, removal of banners and when, exactly, it would be allowed to participate in a postseason tournament again.

Michigan State at that time? Tom Izzo was busy winning a national championship in 2000, and building a streak of six Final Fours in a span of 12 seasons.

In short, Spartan basketball was king, while the Wolverines of the hardwood were a distant second.


Want to talk more about the game? Stop by Nick Baumgardner’s lunchtime basketball chat, which fires up at noon on Wednesday on He’ll discuss the victory, what it means in the Big Ten race and anything else you want to talk about.
"There's a reason they've been to so many Final Fours in the last 10 years," Novak said. "They do things the right way."

But during John Beilein's second season in Ann Arbor, 2008-09, the game got a little closer. The next season, the Wolverines lost one by a point at home.

And then last year, Novak and Douglass' third year on campus, Michigan took two mighty steps forward by earning a season sweep over its in-state foe.

But both of those wins were cast aside by some as a matter of circumstance, with Michigan State going through an unusual season filled with locker room troubles and inconsistent play.

On Tuesday, though? That wasn't the case.

Michigan State is currently the ninth-ranked team in America, has a winning streak of 15 games under its belt this year and arrived in Ann Arbor looking for revenge.

It left still searching.

For Michigan, Tuesday's win was definitely big. It was big for perception, it was big for confidence and it was big for the state of this current season.

But a program-changer? Not so much.

Not any longer.

"This is such a great basketball state and so many people care about this game," Beilein said. "This is good for perception, but our culture is our culture -- and it's good, we've got the right people (in place).

"We're moving in the right direction."

Beilein spoke at length Tuesday about how beating Michigan State felt good, but it's not an end-all, be-all goal.

The Michigan basketball program has gotten to a point where beating the Spartans is nice, but chasing a Big Ten title is better.

"It feels good," Douglass said. "But this isn't the ultimate goal."

The Spartans are no longer a big, bad wolf blocking the Wolverines' path on the court.

They're a peer, an equal and a necessary victory.

Michigan doesn't just hope to compete with Michigan State in basketball any longer.

It expects to.

Nick Baumgardner covers Michigan basketball for He can be reached at 734-623-2514, by email at and followed on Twitter @nickbaumgardner.

Want to stay connected to Wolverine basketball in your Facebook newsfeed? “Like”'s Michigan Basketball News & Views.



Wed, Jan 18, 2012 : 6:48 p.m.

Has anyone else noticed that the announcers tend to judge Hardaway, Jr. harshly for every missed shot, assignment, foul, word, breath he has/takes. There was a point last night where I wanted to mute my TV (but I live an AZ and don't have a radio broadcast).


Wed, Jan 18, 2012 : 3:19 p.m.

Ok man settle down a little bit... First you talk about MSUs dominance throughout the last 14 or so years and then you go to michigan beat them 3 times in a row. Now Michigan beating MSU is an expectation? This is ridiculous, Michigan fans complain that Rich Rod ruined their football season but MSU had 2 key players kicked off the team and others getting in trouble but Michigan's streak is much better than MSUs in football. I think you guys are getting a little ahead of yourselves. I'll give them the win last night, but let's remember Michigan hasn't blown state out one of those games like State used to in their dominance. I think i can safely say that State still dominates the state in basketball


Wed, Jan 18, 2012 : 5:26 p.m.

What are you going to bring up when UM wins in football....badmitten.


Wed, Jan 18, 2012 : 5:10 p.m.

Poor points. This article isn't about Michigan dominating so why are you tripping about Michigan not blowing state out. It's about UofM expecting to win, which is normal against two evenly matched teams. Michigan expects to win if they take care of business as does state. In the past, during state's dominance all UofM fans could hope for was an upset. You don't have to "give them" anything seeing as the final score dictates the fact that UofM won last night. And who said anything about football?

Blue Marker

Wed, Jan 18, 2012 : 5:09 p.m.

They are good points but I'll respectfully disagree with the last sentence. I saw two very evenly matched teams last night. I don't think State still dominates basketball. A slight edge? Sure, maybe a little but not dominance. Even the recruiting has evened up. And that's what makes great games like we saw last night.


Wed, Jan 18, 2012 : 3:42 p.m.

good points


Wed, Jan 18, 2012 : 2:39 p.m.

It is ironic that the U of M basketball has a winning streak against the Spartans vs the opposite in football. As a fan, I would hope Michigan can beat MSU everytime in basketball but reality says, a split would be good. It sure is a big deal now given the post game celebrations. MSU will be a solid basketball team all season. Last night's win shows the Maize and Blue belong with the elite teams in the conference.


Wed, Jan 18, 2012 : 5:11 p.m.

It's always a big deal winning a rivalry game that comes down to the last possession, isn't it?

David Vande Bunte

Wed, Jan 18, 2012 : 1:40 p.m.

"And with that, the state of Michigan officially has its biggest basketball rivalry back." I really want to make a Calvin/Hope comment here, as a 97 Calvin grad...but I won't, lol Regardless, I look forward to reading all of the excuses the Sparty fans will be making on MLive...


Wed, Jan 18, 2012 : 5:41 p.m.

I was thinking 50% the same here, DVB! <a href="" rel='nofollow'>;set=a.10150482772302273.367375.502012272&amp;type=1</a>&theater Go Hope! :-D


Wed, Jan 18, 2012 : 1:38 p.m.

If you &quot;expect&quot; to win a game, you may find yourself in deep trouble. Appalachian State anyone? It's a truer statement to say that Michigan now expects to be competitive with any team in the B1G. Victory is always possible, but never expected.


Wed, Jan 18, 2012 : 5:02 p.m.

Nah, there's a significant difference between expecting to win just by showing up and expecting to win by earning it on the field/court. If a team is confident and trusts the system, you should expect to win if you execute.

Blue Marker

Wed, Jan 18, 2012 : 1:22 p.m.

We may hate to admit it but the B1G is a better basketball conference than football. Getting a road win, any road win is huge. There are a lot of quality teams. As for Nick's article, I don't know if Michigan is there yet. I know I wasn't expecting to beat MSU last night, just hoping. It's nice that at least the outcome is in question now as opposed to the previous decade or so. Great crowd last night...way to go Maize Rage!


Wed, Jan 18, 2012 : 1:16 p.m.

I love this UM basketball team!! Go Blue!


Wed, Jan 18, 2012 : 1:01 p.m.

Nick, the premise of your article is flawed. If UofM expects to beat MSU, why do they celebrate like they won the national championship? It was an exciting game, but instead of breathing a sigh of relief for pulling out a game you expect to win, you celebrate like you can't believe it. Just sayin...


Thu, Jan 19, 2012 : 5:30 a.m.

Arbormike, the premise of your comment is flawed. UM celebrated a close, last second win, just like they would have against anyone. I didnt see confetti, court storming, or the coach get carried off the court on players shoulders.... Ya know, Championship stuff...


Wed, Jan 18, 2012 : 5:12 p.m.

Yep...that was a bad loss and it was a LONG time ago. This however is in the present and was ANOTHER great win!!!! I myself could care less about how the the fans of the LOSING team react to a loss.. That is something for losers to wallow in after they lose, FOR THE THIRD TIME IN A ROW. I Just love watching my teams celebrate victories!!!! Go Blue!!!! If you do like to emelass, here ya go!! <a href="" rel='nofollow'></a>


Wed, Jan 18, 2012 : 3:41 p.m.

Actually, had MSU won, it might have looked more like this: <a href="" rel='nofollow'></a>


Wed, Jan 18, 2012 : 3:28 p.m.

Like MSU did in 2008 when they won in A2 by one point, and who could blame them??? Listen to the comments arbormike!!!! They do not feel that they won the NC just a big game in a long Big Ten season. I guess they should not be happy about that....I guess they should not celebrate that. Have you ever watched an NBA team full or professionals win a last second game???? They celebrate too!!! Geez!!! Find something else to complain about other then a group of kids celebrating their winning a basketball game...


Wed, Jan 18, 2012 : 3:15 p.m.

I qualify &quot;celebrating like you won the National Championship&quot; as storming the court. It's a last-second win against a rival; MSU would've done the same had Green's shot fallen.


Wed, Jan 18, 2012 : 2:30 p.m.

Give me a break!!! They celebrated because it was a LAST SECOND win against a big rival and against a Big Ten team. Keeping them near the top of the Big Ten standings. If they had beaten Northwestern in the same fashion they would have celebrated in the same way and if Draymond's shot goes in MSU would have run all over the floor like they had won the National Championship too. What were they supposed to do act like it was not big deal. It was a great game, a lot of fun and very fun to win. Let them enjoy it without putting them down for it.

Buster W.

Wed, Jan 18, 2012 : 1:33 p.m.

Great point! I thought the same.