Stay home Sparty: State left off home schedule

BY JOE SMITH
Daily Sports Editor
Published September 4, 2001

Michigan State fans will definitely not be "owning" Crisler Arena this year.

They will not even get the opportunity.

For the first time in 32 years, the Spartans will not be playing Michigan at Crisler. The 2001-02 Michigan basketball schedule, the first under new coach Tommy Amaker, has the two rivals only meeting in their annual conference game in East Lansing on January 30th.

Michigan State is "our biggest rival, and it"s something we"ll have to look at the end of this year," said Amaker, who mentioned that when he took over in March, most of the schedule was already set in place.

"It"s always a big game, and players always love a big game and we"ll have one less this year."

Unlike in college football, where certain rivalries are protected in scheduling making it possible for Michigan to play Ohio State and Michigan State each year it"s up to the school"s themselves to protect the same rivalries in basketball. A yearly home-and-home series is not necessarily a rule, but usually Michigan and Michigan State arrange that the two rivals play in a non-conference game.

When Penn State joined the Big Ten in 1997, the only scheduled date between the two schools was a game at Crisler. But before the season, they worked out a way to have a non-conference game at Breslin so that the rivals could play twice.

Things didn"t work out so nicely this year.

"It was an oversight on both of our parts," associate athletic director Warde Manuel said. "It wasn"t intentional by either school. We would have loved to play them in a non-conference game but by the time we caught it it was too late."

Manuel said both sides just realized that the extra game wasn"t logistically possible a few weeks ago, as both schools already finished scheduling their non-conference games.

In fact, Manuel said that it is "highly likely" that the two schools will only play once again next year at Crisler Arena. But he said he plans on trying to make sure that Michigan plays the Spartans twice once again in the 2003-04 season.

Michigan and the Spartans will both participate in a tournament over Winter break the Pete Newell Challenge in Oakland, Calif. on December 29th but the two team"s will not play each other. Michigan will play San Francisco while the Spartans take on Stanford in the second game.

Michigan State is not the only Big Ten team Michigan will play just once. The Wolverines will play single games against Northwestern (Jan. 16) and Indiana (Feb. 17) at Crisler, while only playing Iowa (Feb. 23) on the road.

But the timing of this schedule may benefit Michigan, which is coming off its worst season (10-19) since 1982. Michigan will only face two likely Top-25 teams before January, when they host both defending national champion Duke (Dec. 8) and Big East Champion Boston College (Dec. 1) within a week.

Other highlights in the non-conference home schedule will be the rematch with Oakland to open the season on Nov. 16, and trips to Western Michigan and Bowling Green at the end of November.

Also, for the first time in seven years, Michigan will be playing non-conference games in the middle of its Big Ten schedule with games at Colorado State (Feb. 11) and hosting Vermont (Jan. 26th). These games should serve as a much-needed break in the middle of the rigorous conference schedule.

"I think the schedule gives us good balance," Amaker said. "I think it"s going to be a very challenging schedule for us."