Michigan State or Michigan: Who Has a Better Final Four Shot?

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michigan vs michigan state

Asked to give his initial thoughts on drawing #15 seed Bradley in the first round of the NCAA Tournament, Michigan State Coach Tom Izzo was surprisingly defensive.

“I don’t have any thoughts on that. I guess the only thoughts I have is I’ve been-1-seed and been a 7-seed. Got to a Final Four as a 7 and got beat the first weekend as the 1,” he responded in a tone that was less jovial than expected from a coach who had just won the Big Ten Tournament title.

“I don’t know much about Bradley. I’ll know a lot more by the end of tonight. But I’m not going to let anybody talk me into talking about that if you want the truth.”

michigan state vs michigan

Maybe Izzo was surly with the media because he felt Michigan State deserved a #1 seed, and/or the chance to avoid consensus favorite Duke until the Final Four. While Michigan State beat Michigan three times in the regular season, they both wound up on the two-line, and the Spartans are likely envious of UM’s draw.

The Wolverines landed in the West with #1 seed Gonzaga, while Sparty was plunked in the East with #1-overall seed Duke. That’s why Sascha Paruk from SBD give Michigan better odds to reach the Final Four (+350 vs +400), but Michigan State better odds to win the title (+1500 vs +1600). Both could face Duke before the final, but only MSU will have to beat them before the semis.

Maybe Izzo was cranky because Michigan received a more favorable path to Minneapolis than his team did, despite the fact that his Spartans had just beaten Michigan, for the second time in eight days no less. The man who is sixth all time in NCAA Tournament victories chose to focus on the immediate past, instead of looking to the future.

“I’m going to enjoy this incredible, incredible win but the players in that locker room, and to be honest with you, every player that ever played here, I think everybody took great solace in this win,” he added, before then stating that he wished his side had an extra day of rest to work with.

“If I had my druthers it would be anything but Thursday because just of our injuries and everything, but nothing’s been easy all year, why change now,” Izzo continued. “I’m happy with whatever we do.”

In winning the Big Ten Tournament title, Michigan State looks like a team that is peaking at the right time, but past history doesn’t exactly confirm that idea. In looking at a statistical comparison of how MSU does in the conference tournament, and then that respective season’s NCAA Tournament, you won’t really see any substantial, predictive trends.

And while Izzo has 48 career NCAA Tournament wins, he has a record of just 2-3 over the past three seasons. His arch-rival down Interstate-96, Michigan, have made it to the national title game twice (2013, 2018) since the Spartans last appeared in the final (2009). Overall, this rivalry is starting to develop into Duke-North Carolina light, or perhaps a Big Ten version of that famed Tobacco Road series.

Perhaps Michigan is the safer pick among the two Great Lakes state powerhouses to make a deep run in March? What are the keys for the Wolverines to be playing in April?

“I think it’s really important every time down the court, you’ve got to get a good shot, right,” Michigan coach John Beilein said after the Big Ten Tournament final.

“Only shot clock situation would be the time it would be questioned. We wasted some possessions on offense and we can’t do that. It’s been a problem in any of our losses and we just have to learn from them. It’s a problem in most teams’ losses.”

MICHIGAN WOLVERINES

We’ll see if Beilein makes adjustments from this past weekend, and if going 0-3 against the Spartans this year has prepped them better for The Big Dance.

Paul M. Banks runs The Sports Bank.net, which is partnered with News Now. Banks, a former writer for NBC Chicago.com and Chicago Tribune.com, regularly appears as a guest pundit on WGN CLTV and co-hosts the “Let’s Get Weird, Sports” podcast on SB Nation

He also contributes sociopolitical essays to Chicago NowFollow him on Twitter and Instagram. The content of his cat’s Instagram account is unquestionably superior to his.

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