February 11, 2013
Izzo on MSU-Mich: 'It's bigger than a local game'
EAST LANSING - Michigan State coach Tom Izzo views Tuesday's game against in-state rival Michigan as a barometer for his team heading into final month of regular-season play in the Big Ten.
"There is no secret that I have said all along that Indiana and Michigan are the top two teams in this league," said Izzo, 'and they there are about three or four of us that are fighting to get into that league or that group, that atmosphere. It's games like this that give you the chance to see where you are."
Tuesday's game marks the third consecutive time Michigan State (20-4, 9-2) and Michigan (21-3, 8-3) have met with both teams ranked in the Top 25.It is the first time, however, the first time in the history of the rivalry that both teams are have been ranked in the Top 10 when they've played.
Michigan is ranked No. 4 and Michigan State is ranked No. 8 in the latest poll.
"I guess that makes it where it's bigger than a local game because of that and I think we've worked our way up from wherever we were at the beginning of the year," Izzo said. "They've maintained in the Top 5 all year and deservedly so. That's the challenge ahead for us."
The Michigan State-Michigan rivalry has always been important in the Great Lakes State. But Izzo believes Tuesday's game is generating more buzz nationally than usual.
"There's Hatfields and McCoy's in every relationship but I think the nation is talking about it now and I guess there's a sick side of me that it makes me happy," said Izzo. "Who wouldn't rather dominate a series? But it's not a series that should be dominated by either squad because both teams should be good. Both teams are good this year. I don't think there's any question that in my estimation, this is their best team in a lot of years. They are solid in just about every position and it should make for a heck of a game. I think it's fun to actually feel like the game matters in every way, shape or form both locally and nationally and I'm not sure that's happened since I've been here."
Izzo is 19-11 against Michigan during his coaching career. Michigan had won three straight in the series before the Spartans defeated the Wolverines at Breslin Center last February.
"I've been on the other side in their corner getting beat by 25 every game and those never go away, ever," said Izzo. "They never go away. And No. 2, rivalry games are rivalry games because both teams are usually pretty good. You don't think of rivalry games and dominating styles over the years for any teams across America. In basketball, North Carolina and Duke have been built up as one of the best rivalry games. I think the last game in the first half and the last game of the season. ... The game matters.
"I don't feel threatened, I don't feel overly-excited. I feel like it's the way it's supposed to be, the way it should be and I think the good news is, I don't think we've really come down much. You know, we've maintained some for 16 years now and that's pretty hard to do. I take great pride in that a lot more than worrying about what other teams are doing. Everybody is ratcheting it up. Indiana is ratcheting it up but Michigan State is still there and I think I feel more good about that than I do what other teams success or failures are."
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