Well, the unanimous conclusion of this blog’s readers is that Wisconsin is our main rival. And I can’t argue with that conclusion. Chalk this week’s Coffee Talk question up as non-debate-inducing.
The one caveat readers offered about Wisconsin being our biggest rival is the one-sidedness of the rivalry in recent years. Wisconsin has beaten MSU in 11 of their 14 meetings since Bo Ryan took over as the Badgers’ head coach.
This got me to wondering where Tom Izzo’s records stand against each Big Ten team during his career. Here are the numbers:
|Tom Izzo’s Career Records|
|Versus Big Ten Opponents|
Izzo has a winning record against all 10 conference opponents, but now stands just one game up on Wisconsin during his career. (That means he was 12-3 vs. Wisconsin pre-Bo.) Next season will be a key year in terms of maintaining a positive balance vs. the Badgers.
Illinois has the next best record vs. Izzo and has probably been MSU’s #2 rival during the Izzo era. Indiana’s #3, with the odds favoring Purdue leapfrogging them in the next couple years.
Michigan actually ranks 5th in terms of winning percentage vs. Izzo–although those numbers are built around the 5 wins Michigan racked up against MSU in the first 3 years of the Izzo era (the numbers have not been adjusted for Michigan’s self-imposed sanctions.)
Going forward, I put pretty goods odds on John Beilein building a team that contends more years than not in the Big Ten. If he could build a nationally-ranked program in the Big East at a school with virtually no natural recruiting base, there’s every reason to think he can do the same with more access to local talent at Michigan. And the financial investment Michigan has made in Beilein should ensure he gets enough time to rebuild the team to fit his system.
A tigher rivalry with Michigan would be a net positive for Michigan State in terms of the additional buzz it would create in the state. And, as I think I’ve commented previously, Beilein’s and Izzo’s contrasting styles (3-pointers/zone vs. up-tempo/man-to-man) will lead to fewer in-state recruiting battles than might otherwise arise, allowing the two teams to maximize the use of in-state talent.