Despite how nice it sounds to think Michigan and Michigan State could land in the field of 65 every year, it usually happens at the other’s expense.
His historical rationale for this statement:
Only twice have the Wolverines and Spartans appeared in consecutive tournaments together, in 1985-86 and 1994-95. Their other shared appearances were in 1990, 1992 (which Michigan vacated after its payola scandal) and 1998 (a year after the payola scandal broke but before sanctions struck, U-M’s last tournament appearance, and the start of MSU’s current streak of 11 consecutive appearances).
That the first mutual qualification occurred in 1985, when the NCAA tournament expanded from 48 to 64 teams, is no coincidence.
Neither is it coincidental that the end of Michigan’s longest streak of pre-expansion appearances (1974-77) coincided with the beginning of MSU’s only consecutive pre-expansion appearances (1978-79) — and all directly parallel to which program had secured the best in-state recruits.
Mayo’s premise is that in-state recruiting is the primary driver of basketball success at both MSU and UM. The period that best fits his argument, though, is a time when (1) making the NCAA Tournament field was a bigger challenge (which he points out) and (2) schools didn’t recruit much outside their natural bases.
In the 1990s, though, when Michigan had become a national basketball powerhouse and the Heathcote-Izzo transition was occurring at Michigan State, both teams made the NCAA Tournament in 5 of the 10 years in the decade.
Now, if you believe that Michigan was only successful in the 1980s and early 1990s because they cheated, I guess you can say it was inevitable MSU would become the only national contender from the state once Michigan got caught. But I don’t think that’s a reasonable interpretation of history. Michigan could have continued to be a very good basketball school if they had avoided the excesses of the Steve Fisher era.
The Wolverines would have continued to bring in talented players from across the nation. Tom Izzo would have been Tom Izzo. Maybe he doesn’t win a national championship if Cleaves goes to Michigan, but it’s hard to believe he wouldn’t have still built a quality program at MSU.
Also, why not just take a look at the current data? To what extent do the two programs rely on in-state talent?
- Only 6 of the MSU’s current 13 scholarship players are from Michigan. Six players divided by four years is 1.5 in-state players per year.
- Only 3 of the 6 players John Beilein has brought in at UM so far are from Michigan (and all three players in the 2008 class, the first class Beilein’s solely responsible for, are from outside the state). Three players divided by two years is also 1.5 in-state players per year.
There’s enough talent in this state to produced three players per year capable of playing on a Big Ten contender. Both teams will continue to recruit throughout the Midwest–and both teams have the stature to recruit nationally if they choose to.
Finally, there’s good reason to believe that the contrasting styles of Izzo and Beilein will allow them to co-exist quite happily for the foreseeable future. They’ll butt heads over the elite players coming out of Michigan. But, beyond those players, Izzo will go after guys whose strengths are man-to-man defense, rebounding, and playing in a up-tempo offense. And Beilien will go after guys who excel at outside shooting and passing and can play zone defense.
In other words, can’t we just all get along? (Except when we’re playing each other, of course.)