Izzo, Beilein - Ready To Do Battle Once Again

Izzo, Beilein - Ready To Do Battle Once Again

Basketball

Izzo, Beilein - Ready To Do Battle Once Again

With the Big Ten season about to tip off, Michigan State and Michigan appear to be on yet another collision course for conference supremacy. Tom Izzo and John Beilein bring all of the right elements to the rivalry.

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Just when some of us thought we were going to be able to get a bit of a breather from the intensity of all of that yelling and screaming and foot stomping and name calling and everything else related to the Michigan State/Michigan……rivalry……..some of us are looking up now and seeing what we pretty much knew would be the case all along –

Michigan State and Michigan are on another collision course.

Can the Spartan logo at mid-court of the Breslin Center be scuffed up by the bottom of a guy’s gym shoes?

Forgive my PTSD – I was sitting in the Breslin Center back when the Fab Five rubbed their fannies on the Block S in 1991 and it was just about as ugly as what went down at Spartan Stadium around 10a et this past October 20th.

But that was a different era – and we must say that the rivalry between the two schools who can’t play nice in the sandbox together in the Autumnal period is now much different in the Winter due to the respect between the two head coaches.

Let’s go ahead and say this:

John Beilein is all class in every way.

And he happens to be among the best coaches in all of college basketball.

And he has yet another sensational squad that is off to a start that features two of the season’s most impressive wins.

The rout of Villanova on the road was impressive, to say the least.

The handling (okay, it could probably be labeled as a rout) over Ole Roy and his Carolina chaps was also impressive.

John Belien’s been a winner everywhere he’s coached.

And while I caught hell from so many of the smart people out there for daring to point to the way Ohio State has treated Michigan State with respect over the years even with the Spartans having dealt Urban Meyer deathblow gut-punches, I’ll go ahead and make a similar observation about John Beilein –

He wins with class, treats his opponents with respect, and handles his business like an adult.

Over the last 30 years, Tom Izzo has done all of that and then some.

They want to beat other’s brains in on the court and they compete against one another every day of the year on the recruiting trail and in the court of public opinion.

But I’ve scoured the Twitter and I wasn’t able to find either of them – or their recruiting directors – “throwing shade” at the other guy, the other guy’s program, or the other guy’s efforts to do his business.

I also scored the Google and the YouTube and I could not find a music video featuring John Beilein in which he and an artist claim that nobody has it better than them.

Last August, when John Beilein underwent double-bypass surgery, he was quick to let it be known that among the many people he heard from during his recovery, two of the well-wishers were worthy of note.

“We heard from a lot of good guys but within the first two days, when I did get to my phone, Tom had texted me two or three times,” Beilein said.

“There’s a lot of respect that Tom and I have for each other. And so that’s really good.”

The fact that Izzo reached out to his rival and friend isn’t very surprising to anyone who knows the character of these guys.

But what do the folks in Ann Arbor think about the fact that Beilein mentioned that there was another Spartan that he heard from right away?

“Mark Dantonio sent me a really, really nice card and a note on it,” Beilein said. “A good note on it. It wasn’t like, ‘Hey, get well soon.’ It was like a long note. I don’t know Mark Dantonio at all. Really. I just talked to him one time. And that was really nice of him.”

Maybe Mark Dantonio is actually a guy with character and has respect for people who go about their business like adults.

What’s the point of all of this?

It’s actually possible for rivals to want to beat each other without stomping, yelling, scuffing, screaming, driving narratives that everyone knows aren’t accurate, wanting to defeat people with “cruelty,” and actually let the on-the-field or on-the-court accomplishments be the measuring sticks for the way the rivals compare to one another.

From 1995 through 2006, Tom Izzo’s Michigan State program held a 15-2 edge over the Michigan program that was coached by Steve Fisher, Brian Ellerbe, and Tommy Amaker.

It’s also worth acknowledging that Jud Heathcote’s program battled a program that Steve Fisher led – and the integrity of Jud’s program will forever speak for itself while the dynamics related to Fisher’s program will also forever speak for themselves.

Since John Beilein came to Ann Arbor in 2007, Michigan State leads the series 12-10.

Since Beilein took over as head coach in Ann Arbor, his program has won two regular season Big Ten Championships (2012 and 2014) and two Big Ten Tournament Championships (2017 and 2018).

Beilein has also taken the Wolverines to the National Championship game twice (2013 and 2018).

And he’s done all of that without any nonsensical music videos, without any borderline physical altercations with opposing coaches, without running around with his shirt off, without sleeping in tree forts with recruits, and without the loudest hype machine in all of college sports.

Beilein wins – and when he wins, he’s respectful about it.

Meanwhile, Tom Izzo’s character, professionalism, commitment to results and not hype, and respect for rivals who can and have defeated him all is self-evident.

And in case anyone needs a reminder, here is what Izzo’s 24-year career as Michigan State’s head coach looks like on paper:

  • 8 regular season Big Ten Championships – 1998, 1999, 2000, 2001, 2009, 2010, 2012, 2018.
  • 5 Big Ten Tournament Championships – 1999, 2000, 2012, 2014, 2016.
  • 7 Final Four appearances – 1999, 2000, 2001, 2005, 2009, 2010, 2015.
  • 1 National Championship – 2000.
  • Inducted into the Basketball Hall of Fame in 2016.

And with the 2018-2019 Big Ten season about to tip off, it’s obvious that these two basketball powerhouses will be fighting one another – again – for Big Ten supremacy.

Michigan has earned it’s spot as a National Championship contender in the national conversation in the early going this year, particularly considering the two gigantic wins over Villanova and North Carolina.

Michigan State showed mettle even though the Spartans came up short against then-#1 Kansas – and the loss to Louisville showed that the Spartans have work to do.

But Michigan State should be right there all season long and its goals are the same as they are every season.

Beilein and his program must feel like they have unfinished business to tend to after coming up short in the title game last season.

Izzo and his program are hungry to show that the trend of the last three early exits in March is going to end this year.

For right now, however, John Beilein is right – we have a “monster” of a Big Ten season ahead of us.

And these old pals – these old rivals – are going to enjoy battling one another for the next few months.

February 24th in Ann Arbor and March 9th in East Lansing are going to be intense and crazy and big and heated and important.

And, because of the way these guys approach the rivalry, the games will be fun.

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