It’ll Never Be Over: Michigan-Michigan State Rivalry takes center stage at Basketball Media Day

By Jay Sarkar ,


Photo by Andy Shippy

After Jim Harbaugh spent a portion of his Monday morning press conference decrying what he referred to as Michigan State’s “Orchestrated Storm Trooper March” before Saturday’s 21-7 win on the gridiron, the Michigan-Michigan State rivalry discussion carried over to Michigan Basketball Media day at Crisler Center.

Michigan sophomore Jordan Poole during Basketball Media Day (Photo by Jay Sarkar)

“Me and Isaiah (Livers) were on our way to the game when we saw (Devin) Bush kicking up the Spartan sign and stuff but we were extremely excited, and I am glad that we came out on top with the win,” said Michigan sophomore guard Jordan Poole, who is close friends with Wolverine wide receivers Tarik Black and Donovan Peoples-Jones.

The Wolverines win at Spartan Stadium on Saturday completed a perfect 2018 for Michigan over rival Michigan State on the gridiron and the hardwood. Michigan defeated Michigan State in basketball in both the regular season (82-72 in East Lansing) and the Big Ten Tournament (75-64 in a BTT Semifinal at Madison Square Garden.) “It definitely shows that we’re big brother.” joked Poole. “The fact that we shut all their boys down. They’re alright, but we definitely got the upper hand right now for sure” he finished. Poole finished by saying he absolutely believes the vitriol from this weekend will carry into the Spartans and Wolverines pair of games come February and March.

Michigan coach John Beilein at his Media Day press conference (Photo by Jay Sarkar)

While the players were in on the rivalry fun, head coach John Beilein had more heartfelt remarks for the Wolverines green and white opponents. After his heart procedure on August 6th, Beilein shared Monday that Michigan State coaches Tom Izzo and Mark Dantonio were among the first to reach out to him while he recovered.

“Within the first two days, Tom had texted me two or three times. Mark Dantonio sent me a really nice card with a good note on it. I mean it wasn’t just ‘hey get well soon.’ It was a long note, and there is a lot of respect that Tom and I have for each other so that is really good but I don’t know Mark Dantonio at all, so that was really nice of him.”

Others had a more complicated situation with the rivalry. Third-year assistant coach Saddi Washington grew up in Lansing, playing at Sexton High School, and grew up a Spartan fan. After playing at Western Michigan and serving as an assistant at Oakland University, Washington is now Beilein’s longest-tenured assistant coach.

“It’s always in me,” said Washington regarding his green and white roots. “You’re proud of where you come from, Lansing made me.” He continued. Washington had plenty of praise for his new home of Ann Arbor, and even more for his parents, who have been supportive of his career at Michigan, even if they won’t wear the Wolverines colors. “They’re at the games and supportive, I haven’t gotten them to actually wear any Michigan gear, they might wear some shades of the color, but it’s all in fun. At the end of the day, I am still their son and they will always support me.”

Michigan assistant Saddi Washington looks on as Freshman Brandon Johns puts up a shot in practice. (Photo by Jay Sarkar)

Freshman Brandon Johns was a star player for East Lansing High School and had many of his high school games attended by Tom Izzo and MSU players, but he chose Michigan after a lengthy recruitment process.

“There have been a lot of people who have changed roles (in the rivalry.)” replied Johns. “They went to MSU and they’re like now I am a Michigan fan. Or there are some people who are like ‘I am not a Michigan fan, but I am a Brandon Johns fan.” He finished.

Johns has witnessed Michigan and Michigan State mix it up on the basketball court many times, but he is eager to be part of the game as a player. “I think about that (Michigan vs. Michigan State) all the time! It’s gonna be great. I don’t think anything bad of it, I just think it will be fun more than anything because I know a lot of guys on the MSU team.”

Johns will only have to wait 125 more days until he and the Wolverines get their first shot at Michigan State in Ann Arbor. We may not know what will happen between now and then, but we do know that like any good sibling rivalry, it will be one hell of a fight.

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