A Golden Era for the Michigan-Michigan State Basketball Rivalry

Hello, Loyal Readers!

Before we get on to the show, here’s my interview with the great Cynthia Canty on Michigan Radio’s Stateside show on the  Larry Nasser / MSU situation. I’m sure to have more to say about this next week.

Meantime, you can order The Great Halifax Explosion here. Whatya waiting’ fer?!?!

Thanks for listening, and thanks for reading!

-John

To listen to the audio version, just click the play button.

College basketball is so corrupt, the FBI itself had to bust a bunch of coaches this past fall. But that’s not the case here in Michigan, where two of the sport’s greatest leaders happen to work. It’s also home to one of the game’s most underrated rivalries.

Entering Saturday’s game between Michigan and Michigan State, the Spartans had just snapped their 14-game winning streak and dropped their number-one ranking by losing to Ohio State. But they were still ranked fourth, with the best three forwards Tom Izzo has ever had in his 23 years coaching Michigan State, and that’s saying a lot.

Michigan approached the game from the opposite direction. The unranked Wolverines had just lost to fifth-ranked Purdue by a point. They played well enough to win, but didn’t seem to know how to handle themselves during crunch time. Nationwide, few were paying any attention to them, and they were eager to change that.

Both teams were playing for a Big Ten title, national respect, and a good spot in the NCAA tournament – pretty high stakes for early January.

The game was better than advertised, a great bout with both teams swinging away, landing punch after punch. The game featured 11 ties, and 13 lead changes. Nobody was asking for a refund.

But when the game whittled down to the final minutes, when the Spartans were expected to show the Wolverines what a top ten team looks like, a funny thing happened: the underdogs played with poise, and the favorites lost it.

The Wolverines won by ten, and celebrated accordingly. Michigan’s big man, 6-11 Moe Wagner, fresh from Germany, showed off his mastery of America trash talk. When a reporter asked Izzo about Wagner’s antics, he said, “He earned it. He talked it, he walked it.”

And that’s why I love this rivalry. Both teams are coached by grown men, not overgrown adolescents, who know right from wrong. They graduate almost all their players, and have never committed any violations in a sport infested with rampant cheating.

This summer CBS asked more than 100 college coaches who was the nation’s cleanest coach. Michigan State’s Tom Izzo finished a very impressive sixth, while Michigan’s John Beilein finished first. Which is why I believe this is one of the greatest rivalries in college basketball – and why it’s never been better.

I’ll say it now: when you take everything into account, Tom Izzo is the best coach in Michigan State history, and John Beilein is the best coach in Michigan history. The state of Michigan has never had it better, on and off the court.

If my son plays basketball, I’d be thrilled to see him play for either coach. Of course, they wouldn’t, since Teddy’s dad stands five-foot-eight and his mom five-foot-five, and neither one of us can jump – or play basketball.

We should savor this golden era. That’s why it’s completely mystifying that the Big Ten scheduled only one game between them this season.

Great players making great plays led by great coaches in one of the sport’s greatest rivalries. Yeah, who would want to see more of that?!? Can you imagine the Atlantic Coast Conference throttling down the Duke-North Carolina rivalry to only one game a year? You would’ve heard about it.

Here’s hoping the Big Ten gets it right next year, and all the years thereafter, and schedules two Michigan-Michigan State games every year, before these two legends leave the stage.

  • * * * * *

Hello, Loyal Readers!

The Great Halifax Explosion, and thanks to all of you for making this possible.

Just a few days after announcing the book’s fourth printing, HarperCollins/William Morrow announced a fifth printing. So you keep buying ’em, we’ll keep printing ’em — promise!

Here’s my interview with Sue O’Connell on the New England Cable Network (NECN) about the Great Halifax Explosion, and how it transformed the United States and Canada from adversaries to allies.

We also continue to get great reviews, this latest from the Providence Journal’s review of The Great Halifax Explosion:

“Heroes and angels emerged from the smoldering ruins to save lives and comfort those who had suffered grievous losses… Bacon has crafted a marvelous story about this huge tragedy. It is both greatly discomforting and immensely satisfying to read about the destruction and resurrection of a proud community. Ultimately, it is a book about the power of the human spirit and how ordinary people overcome unimaginable horror to rebuild their lives and help others. It is indeed a story for our times.”

And finally, for the second straight month, the Great Halifax Explosion was the bestselling book of all genres in the state of Michigan. Now all we need is 49 more!

Great thanks to you all. Your support allows me to keep doing what I love: telling stories.

THANK YOU!

-John

 

 

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4 comments Leave a comment  

  • JACK HAMMYour name (Required) January 19, 2018 at 4:33 pm

    Message (Required)

    Reply
  • JACK HAMMYour name (Required) January 19, 2018 at 4:42 pm

    Message (Required) INTO EACH LIFE A LITTLE RAIN MUST FALL !!!! HAVING SAID THAT, DON’T COUNT
    MICHIGAN STATE OUT. TOM IZZO, THE IRON MOUNTAIN NATIVE WILL STILL GIVE EvERYONE A
    BATTLE.

    I AGREE WITH YOU JOHN, THE TWO COACHES ARE A CREDIT TO THEIR PROFESSION, AND TWO OF
    THE BEST IN THE BUSINESS !!!!

    I LOVED YOUR HALIFAX BOOK. THE WAY IT IS WRITTEN, IT ALMOST SOUNDS LIKE YOU PERSONALLY
    INTERVIEWED THE SURVIVORS RIGHT AFTER THE BLAST. OF COURSE THAT WAS IMPOSSIBLE, UNLESS
    MANY OF THEM LIVED TO BE WELL OVER 100 YEARS OLD.

    YOUR FAVORITE SPARTAN.
    JACK HAMM

    Reply
  • Brett January 20, 2018 at 12:09 pm

    Great story John U! You’re so right about the BIG basketball scheduling – they need to get the rivalry issues fixed and divisions aren’t the answer because I don’t want UM going years without seeing some teams but also like seeing the rivalries get preferences

    Reply
  • Homer Meeks January 21, 2018 at 9:23 pm

    Nice job John. I think we are seeing the same in the women’s game. Kim Barnes Arico has brought Michigan to new heights with more wins than any previous Michigan coach ever and much sooner. I am hoping Michigan can get over the hump and beat our rivals this year with perhaps even a sweep. Certainly we need to make the big dance!

    Reply

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