CHICAGO – Rivalries are what sports are made of, and it doesn’t get any better than Duke versus North Carolina.
If it wasn’t for this heated rivalry, students at the two schools wouldn’t camp out overnight for a chance to see these storied basketball programs square off against each other each year.
As one of the best rivalries in sports – let alone basketball – the Duke-North Carolina rivalry was at its strongest when two legendary coaches – Duke’s Mike Krzyzeweski and North Carolina’s Dean Smith – were at the helms of their respective programs.
Now, with coach Tommy Amaker securely holding onto the reigns at Michigan and Tom Izzo leading Michigan State, the Wolverines and Spartans may be poised to have an in-state rivalry similar to the legendary one in North Carolina.
“I’ve always believed that the Michigan-Michigan State rivalry should be like Duke-North Carolina,” Izzo said yesterday at Big Ten media day in Chicago. “I said that when we were bad. I said that when they were bad. And now that we’re both pretty good, I’ll say it again.”
Over the past five years, the Spartans have ruled the state of Michigan with an iron fist. Michigan State has gone 8-2 against the Wolverines since 1998, with its last five wins coming by 20 or more points – including a 51-point massacre of Michigan in 2000.
But last year in Ann Arbor, Michigan showed that it wouldn’t back down without a fight in its 60-58 win over the Spartans on Jan. 26.
“I think the sky’s the limit as far as that rivalry,” Michigan senior Bernard Robinson said. “Michigan State will always be a great team, and coach Amaker is doing the things to make us become a great team.”
Michigan State junior Kelvin Torbert said that one of the reasons that the Michigan-Michigan State rivalry is so special is because now that the teams are on the same level, every time they step on the court, either team could walk away with a ‘W.’
“It’s one of the best rivalries in the country,” Torbert said. “It’s a big-time rivalry every year coming in. You have to give it your all or you’re gonna lose.”
Dan the man: Michigan sophomore Daniel Horton was named to the Preseason All-Big Ten team by both the coaches and media yesterday. Horton averaged 15.2 points per game along with 4.5 assists last year.
“I would’ve been surprised if he wasn’t (named to the team), given what he’s accomplished in his first year,” Amaker said. “I think it’s a nice thing. It’s always nice to be recognized as one of the best in your league, but he knows as well as anyone that you’ve gotta go and prove that.
“People predicted that he’d have a chance to be freshman of the year a year ago, and he went out and did that, so I’m sure he’ll take this in the same manner.”
Horton was named to the All-Conference team by the media along with three other sophomores – Dee Brown of Illinois, Chris Hill of Michigan State and Bracey Wright of Indiana. Wisconsin junior Devin Harris rounded out the Preseason All-Conference team, as selected by the media and coaches alike.
Because of a tie in voting by the coaches, Michigan State sophomore Paul Davis was named to the All-Conference team as a sixth player.
Dethroned: The Big Ten Conference announced yesterday that it has reached one-year extensions with both Indianapolis and Chicago to host the 2006 and 2007 Big Ten Tournaments, respectively.
The Big Ten ultimately decided to renew the contracts with these two cities after looking into other possibilities for host cities. The Palace of Auburn Hills and Nationwide Arena in Columbus both placed official bids, which were turned down the by Big Ten.
“It was just a sense that the United Center (in Chicago) and Conseco Fieldhouse (in Indianapolis) were the places, at this stage of the development of the tournament, that (the athletic directors) wanted to be,” Big Ten commissioner Jim Delany said yesterday.
This year’s tournament will also be held in Indianapolis, and continuing the alternating-year format, the 2005 tournament will be held in Chicago.