Michigan’s and Michigan State’s campuses have always been 65 miles apart. But the gap that exists between the two schools’ basketball programs has been ever-changing. With eight consecutive wins, Michigan State had thoroughly dominated the Wolverines in all facets of the game over the past five seasons.
But yesterday afternoon, the Wolverines not only extended their current winning streak to 13, they put an end to years of frustration for fans and players who have been waiting for this moment, and this moment only, for a long time.
“It’s exceptional,” Michigan Athletic Director Bill Martin said. “Tommy (Amaker) has done exactly what we wanted him to do, and a lot sooner than I expected. And to have the rivalry with (Michigan) State, it’s very exciting.”
But looking back over the games in the past few seasons, it’s hard to believe a turnaround like this happened so soon.
On March 4, 2000, Michigan was embarrassed by Michigan State, losing 114-63 at the Breslin Center. The Wolverines had lost four straight to the Spartans prior to that game, but the 51-point loss margin was, and still is, the largest in Michigan basketball history.
A season later, on Jan. 30, 2001, Michigan State beat Michigan 91-64 in a game that felt like a Spartans’ home game in Ann Arbor. Green and white filled every corner of Crisler Arena, and they were the only colors left by the final buzzer, as most Michigan fans left early.
Even last season, with Amaker at the helm, it still wasn’t the time for a Michigan revival, as the Wolverines were beaten 71-44 in East Lansing.
But all that is now forgotten.
All the bad memories this rivalry has given Michigan basketball fans were washed away with yesterday’s win, and, more importantly, with the thought of what this team can do in the next few seasons. All people could see was Daniel Horton being hoisted up at center court following the buzzer, one finger pointed straight into the air, as fans rushed toward him to celebrate what seems to be a changing of the guard.