For all the usual verbal animosity between fans of the Michigan State Spartans and Michigan Wolverines, Sunday turned out to be a fantastically quiet day of basketball brotherhood in the state of Michigan.
First, the Wolverines dominated VCU from start to finish in a game few people predicted to be the dominating runaway it was. Michigan introduced their own version of havoc to Shaka Smart, predicated on breaking the press, finding open shooters and knocking down shots. They also displayed a fantastic toughness inside, outworking the Rams over and over again and flexing their muscles in a 25 point whooping.
Then, fittingly, the Spartans took the floor and dominated Memphis. Behind the same Palace passion which had engulfed VCU, Michigan State blized out to an early 10 point lead against the Tigers, a team many considered to be more athletic and a tough match up. The Spartans were so focused they were fighting each other more than the opposition. Things got even more out of hand in the second half, and the Spartans thrashed Memphis to the tune of a 22 point win.
Four games in two days, four similarly dominating performances. The level of basketball displayed by both the Spartans and Wolverines at home on the first week of the tournament should be the talk of basketball. After all, here’s two programs dominating from one state like our residents have never seen. Both Michigan and Michigan State haven’t made the Sweet 16 at the same time until now, and if each keep this up, well, there could be another similar reunion next weekend. Stranger things have happened.
Good for everyone. For a moment, let’s everybody forget about the recruiting wars and the usually playful jealousy and backstabbing between the schools. There’s always room enough to praise both teams in this column, and there should be in the hearts and minds of Michigan residents as well. If North Carolina has the Tar Heels and Blue Devils achieving simultaneous success and Kentucky can support the Wildcats and Cardinals, certainly Michigan should have the Spartans and Wolverines show something together on the court from time to time. It only makes us all look better, while keeping quote jesters like Charles Barkley quiet.
As the Wolverines prepare to head south for Arlington and the Spartans ready for another trip to their favorite regional locale in Indianapolis, both teams deserve applause for their initial performance in Michigan. Just four years ago, Michigan State’s impassioned run to a Final Four in Detroit ignited the state. It can happen once again if both teams continue their winning ways next weekend. A perfect end to the season would be a Michigan/Michigan State game to decide the national championship. Talk about bragging rights forever.
So for the next week, the refrain should be a combination of go blue and go green. This March, the most impressive state in basketball is far and away Michigan. Let’s keep it that way for just a while longer.
Players Of The Week: Michigan State: Gary Harris, G. Harris had arguably his best game in a Spartan uniform on Saturday, splashing in 23 points in Michigan State’s dominating win over Memphis. Harris also contributed 10 against Valparaiso. He’s driving the bus for the Spartans now, and his play will be vital against the potential likes of Duke or Louisville. Michigan: Mitch McGary, F. It was a big weekend for the Wolverines’ star, who went for 21 and 14 against VCU while putting through 13 and 9 in the first round. A consistent game low from McGary and Glenn Robinson III will make Michigan a very tough out, and perhaps a major Final Four contender.
Stat Of The Week: 37, the amount of rebounds Michigan State had against Duke in the teams’ last tournament meeting in 2005. The Spartans simply out-toughed the Blue Devils in the paint which led to the complete beating everywhere else and a major upset. Should the teams meet, the formula will be the same again to guarantee another Spartan victory.
Tournament Tracker: NCAA regionals, Indianapolis and Arlington
#3 Michigan State vs. #2 Duke, Friday
#4 Michigan vs. #1 Kansas, Friday
Max DeMara is a senior editor at The Detroit Sports Site. You can find him on Twitter @SportsGuyTheMax