UM’s Beilein: Playing MSU twice ‘the right thing to do’
John Beilein and Tom Izzo may not share similar views on every college basketball topic, but the coaches agree on one thing: Michigan and Michigan State should square off twice in the regular season every year.
But for the second time in three seasons, that’s not happening — much to the dismay of both fan bases.
The Spartans and Wolverines are scheduled to play one another just once in Big Ten play this season — on Jan. 13 at the Breslin Center. The rivals clashed once in 2015-16 in Ann Arbor and split the two-game series last season with each team prevailing at home.
During a radio interview Tuesday on “The Drive with Jack Ebling” on 92.1 FM in Lansing, Beilein said he’s in favor of preserving home-and-home series between rivals and noted talks with the Big Ten have been progressing.
“There’s a movement afoot right now to try to protect rivalries, that Michigan-Michigan State will always play twice, Indiana-Purdue,” Beilein said. “It’s not done, but I supported it, Tom Izzo supports it. Let’s see if it takes shape, but we think it’s the right thing to do as well.”
This season, conference play will also be starting a month earlier — and in the middle of the nonconference slate — due to the Big Ten tournament being held a week earlier than usual at Madison Square Garden from Feb. 28-March 4.
As a result, every Big Ten team will play a conference game at home and on the road from Dec. 1-5. Last season, Michigan played its Big Ten opener at Iowa on Jan. 1.
“We felt as a league that it would be really important to continue to grow the league by playing at Madison Square Garden, but the only weekend we could get was a week earlier,” Beilein said. “We’d have a really compressed schedule.”
With conference play set to kick off on the first weekend after the college football regular season ends, Beilein added the move should be beneficial and generate more excitement.
“There will be the championship game somewhere that weekend in the Big Ten, but now all the students are at campus, exams haven’t started,” Beilein said. “Rather than open up Jan. 2 and the students are away, all the campus will be ramped up. It should be really exciting actually.
“(Big Ten commissioner) Jim Delany says this, Dave Gavitt used to say it all the time, former commissioner of the Big East, ‘College basketball knows how to end a season. They don’t know how to start it.’ I think by putting better games in November and December for students and TV, I think it’s a better way for us to start the season, get some attention that we always have in January and February and get it earlier in the year.”