The NCAA Tournament is the tournament which really matters, but the Michigan Wolverines are focused on the team in front of them this Sunday afternoon in Chicago.
Winning the Big Ten Tournament for a third straight year would be an incredible accomplishment for John Beilein and the Maize and Blue. Yet, the significance of the 2019 Big Ten Tournament championship game lies more in the opponent the Wolverines will face: archrival Michigan State.
Last year, Michigan had the upper hand in the rivalry, but this season, Michigan State has thoroughly flummoxed Michigan in the second halves of two separate games. Michigan played solid first halves each time but had no answer after halftime. Tom Izzo outmaneuvered Beilein, and the Spartans’ players simply performed at a much higher level.
After Michigan mowed down Minnesota in Saturday’s second Big Ten semifinal, the focus immediately turned to the enemy in green from East Lansing:
“I’m so excited to get this opportunity again,” Michigan’s Ignas Brazdeikas said. “We’ve got to embrace this opportunity, because we might not get it again. We might not play them again. We’ve got to get our revenge.”
Michigan’s coach weighed in on the challenge awaiting his team:
“We have to embrace it,” coach John Beilein said. “Michigan State is not going away as being a force in the Big Ten. Michigan is not going away as a force in the Big Ten. And as a result, you have two great programs… that have both been to Final Fours the last 10 years… It’s a great venue right now, with two really storied programs going at it. There were times in the ’60s and ‘70s and ’80s that weren’t like that. Now, to be right there, it feels really good that we’ve accomplished that. I think they feel the same way, that they are competing with a great program like Michigan every day and it’s great for everybody.”
We will see if Michigan can create a great game in part three of this season series with Michigan State.
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