Big Ten Rivalries: Michigan vs. Michigan State - State of the Rivalry

Brian Spurlock-USA TODAY Sports

While MSU has been a national power for years, Michigan has had the better program of late. What's the current State of the Rivalry?

BTP has been breaking down the best rivalries in the Big Ten over the past few weeks.  This time, we will take a look at one of the most high profile rivalries in recent years.  Michigan vs. Michigan State.

Michigan - Michigan State Historically

While Michigan has a 20 game lead in the series, Michigan State has been the premiere basketball program in the state, largely in part to Tom Izzo. Izzo has dominated the state since taking over the Spartans in 1995, making MSU a national power. Izzo has made the NCAA Tournament in 15 straight seasons, which is the 3rd streak longest currently in the NCAA.  and his "Izzo Guarantee" - that every player who graduated from MSU would play in a Final Four - just ended this last season. Despite only winning two NCAA titles (head coach and assistant), Izzo is a first-ballot Hall of Famer and with a 20-9 all time record (not including five Michigan wins that were vacated), he's dominated the University of Michigan as well.

Meanwhile, Michigan has had some successful teams like the Fab Five, but Michigan basketball has been defined by scandal and ineptitude in the recent past. While Izzo has been at Michigan State, Michigan has had scandal, sanctions, and mediocre play, until John Beilein came to town.

Michigan - Michigan State Recent History

Michigan and Michigan State's basketball rivalry has reached new heights recently. Both teams have been ranked for the last seven meetings. While Michigan State has been a power for years, Michigan, under John Beilein, has only recently joined the national stage. Beilein built foundation since arriving on campus, and Michigan burst on the scene with all-everything player Trey Burke and a national championship berth in 2013.

Michigan has won six of the last nine games in the rivalry. In that time, Michigan has had more national accolades, with Trey Burke winning numerous awards his freshman and sophomore years and more success in the NCAA tournament. Michigan has been better recruiting as of late, signing four and five star Nik Stauskas and Glenn Robinson, respectively. Signing Mitch McGary, who was the highest rated big man at the time, helped round the class that supplemented Trey Burke and Tim Hardaway, Jr. in Michigan's national championship run.

Michigan - Michigan State Recruiting [Section Contributed By Thomas Beindit (@tbeindit)]

During the early years of John Beilein's tenure at Michigan, the Spartans largely controlled the recruiting trail with Michigan settling for more unknown prospects.  However, with Michigan's facility renovations and increased performance on the court, they have taken control in recruiting over the last few seasons.  According to 247Sports, the Spartans narrowly had the higher rated class in 2011, but Michigan finished higher in 2012, 2013, and 2014.  There's no doubt that this upsurge has played a big part in the Wolverines' turnaround in the rivalry.

Going forward, the Spartans have the current edge in 2015 and 2016 with two commits already in 2015.  Michigan has the lone commit in 2016 with center Jon Teske.  The obvious note here is that the recruiting process for 2015 and 2016 has a long way to go and neither program can maintain an advantage yet.  Michigan doesn't even have a 2015 commit yet, which seems very unlikely to hold true when the 2015-16 season starts.  In terms of recruiting, both schools are getting big and interesting prospects, but Michigan has definitely had the edge recently, especially considering that some of their lower rated guys like Trey Burke, Tim Hardaway, Jr., and Caris LeVert all turned into major NBA prospects and All-B1G first or second team members.

Michigan - Michigan State in 2014-15

Both these teams will look radically different this upcoming season. Michigan State loses a great deal of leadership after seniors Keith Appling and Adreian Payne graduated, and will have to make up a great deal of scoring with Gary Harris' early departure to the NBA. Bench players Russell Byrd and Kenny Kaminsi have transferred and Alex Gauna is reportedly leaning towards retirement prior to his senior season. New captain Travis Trice will be expected to make up in both leadership and scoring, but outside of Trice and Branden Dawson, this Michigan State team will look very different from last year's Elite Eight team.

After this year's NBA Draft ended, the starting five from Michigan's National Championship runner-up team were now all NBA players, and Jordan Morgan graduated. The only returning starters from last season are Derrick Walton and Caris LeVert. Their growth and experience will be key for any success Michigan has this year. There's been a great deal of hype surrounding redshirt freshman Mark Donnal and incoming freshman Kameron Chatman. Both players will likely be starting. Also, if Zak Irvin can defend and be more creative offensively, Michigan's rotation will be solid, especially if

Thoughts

For years, the Michigan-Michigan State rivalry wasn't a rivalry at all.

A rivalry requires both teams to win.

And until recently, Michigan wasn't doing that. In recent history, Tom Izzo owned the state -- that is, until John Beilein finally made the series competitive, winning six of the past nine games.

Tom Izzo has said  he wants Michigan and Michigan State to be like college basketball's biggest rivalry -- Duke and North Carolina. It has all the same factors. The schools are close, they fight over recruits, and more importantly- now,  either team has a chance to win.

Last season, Michigan State was picked by most to get to the Final Four, while Michigan was expected to have a down year. Michigan beat State twice in the regular season, in two hotly contested games.

After both teams advanced to the Elite Eight, it was impossible not to speculate a Michigan-MSU national championship game. Fans should be glad it didn't happen.

Whichever team won would have had bragging rights for the foreseeable future and it would have stunted the rivalry. This rivalry has to grow in Crisler Arena and the Breslin Center, the same way Cameron Indoor and the Dean Dome have seen some of college basketball's best games.

Now that Michigan is finally on a competitive level with Michigan State, that can happen.

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