MSU freshmen look ahead to U-M rivalry game
Whether it's vandalism on the Earvin "Magic" Johnson statue or spray paint on the Block M in the Diag, nothing brings the best and worst out of individuals than a rivalry.
As both MSU men’s basketball (12-9, 4-4 Big Ten) and U-M (14-7, 4-4 Big Ten) take to the hardwood on Sunday, head coach Tom Izzo anticipates this game to be as big as ever because both teams are hungry for a win.
Losers of the last three, MSU players and Izzo have cited the lack of focus to be a main contributor to team turbulence.
“When you do play a rivalry, you lose a little bit of focus,” Izzo said. “With the fact that we’re both hungry for a win I think it makes it even as good or bigger, I think it will be a hell of a game.”
These two teams will meet for matchup No. 178, however, this will be the first time the MSU freshman class: Miles Bridges, Cassius Winston, Nick Ward and Joshua Langford, will get a taste of the in-state battle.
Born and raised in Flint, Mich., Bridges sees a heightened version of the rivalry.
With one of U-M’s satellite schools, UM-Flint located in his hometown, Bridges grew up in a basketball town popularized by the Flintstones, MSU’s nicknamed class of players from Flint including: Mateen Cleaves, Morris Peterson, Charlie Bell and Antonio Smith. Smith graduated in 1999, while the other three captured the national championship the next season.
Bridges said he looked into the history of the two teams a little more and said his favorite game was in 1995 in Ann Arbor. In that matchup, MSU’s Shawn Respert exploded in the second half, scoring 30 of his 33 points as MSU defeated the Wolverines, 73-71.
“You can just see the intensity rising,” Bridges said. “It’s a great rivalry, it’s fun and it’s good for the fans.”
Both Bridges and Winston understand the rivalry a little more because they’re from the state of Michigan. Winston played high school basketball at the University of Detroit Jesuit High School.
“I know that there is a lot riding on this game,” Winston said. “They’re going to throw their hardest, we are going to throw our hardest.”
Langford and Ward will get their first taste of the in-state tension, Ward being from Ohio and Langford from Alabama.
With family ties to both Alabama and Auburn football, Langford said is he no stranger to rivalry. The intensity of the Iron Bowl every year is hard to live up to, Langford said, but being integrated into the MSU team leaves him preparing for a new enemy.
“The more I start to learn about the rivalry, the more I appreciate it,” Langford said. “I feel like the rivalry is really going to push our team to the limits.”
Michigan leads the overall record 90-80. The seven meetings missing were vacated because of NCAA violations by U-M. In that case, Ed Martin, a team booster, was discovered to giving around $616,000 to various U-M men's basketball players. U-M had to vacate 113 wins, seven of which were against MSU. U-M also vacated a NIT championship, four NCAA Tournament appearances, a Big Ten title and two Final Fours.
The game is set to take place at the Breslin Center at 1 p.m. on Sunday. The showdown will be televised on CBS Sports.