Tom Izzo: The Michigan-Michigan State basketball game isn't 'life and death'
For the first time since 1998, the Michigan State and Michigan basketball programs will meet as ranked teams.
The game Tuesday (7 p.m., ESPN) certainly be a landmark game in terms of national attention, but is it any more important?
"I don't think for either team it's life and death," Michigan State coach Tom Izzo said Monday on the Big Ten coaches teleconference. "There's going to be a lot of losses and, hopefully, a lot of wins left, for both of us."
Michigan is now No. 20 in the AP poll, while Michigan State sits at No. 9.
The last time both the Wolverines and Spartans met as ranked opponents was Feb. 22, 1998. That day, No. 14 Michigan State grabbed an 80-75 victory against No. 22 Michigan in East Lansing.
Perhaps more notable, though, is the fact that Michigan can earn its third consecutive victory against the Spartans. The Wolverines swept the season series a year ago.
The last time Michigan won more than two in a row against Michigan State was a five-game winning streak from 1996-98.
So while the idea of two ranked opponents squaring off in January doesn't bring about a life and death situation, Izzo says the chance to avoid a three-game losing streak to one of his biggest rivals does make things interesting.
"You never want to lose three in a row to anybody," he said. "When it's your in-state rival, it's always more important.
"It think when you've got two ranked teams, it stokes the fire a little bit. It's not Duke-North Carolina yet, but everybody hopes it will be. And if both teams are ranked year after year playing each other, then (maybe) that's what it turns into."
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