EAST LANSING, Mich. —
“Now this is frosting on the cake. “
Michigan State and Michigan won their first two games relatively easily, putting the rivals in the same round of 16 for the first time.
Izzo, who has said it is “illegal” to like the Wolverines, acknowledged he is pulling for the maize and blue and the rest of the Big Ten during the NCAA tournament
Michigan coach John Beilein said he surprised himself by cheering for another rival, the Buckeyes, in their tight game with the Cyclones.
“During the season, I do not root for other schools in the Big Ten,” Beilein told The AP. “But I found myself rooting for the Big Ten this past weekend, hoping Aaron Craft would make a free throw or a 3-pointer, because there’s an appreciation for the competition we have within our conference.”
The Big Ten hasn’t had a national champion in men’s basketball since the Spartans won it all in 2000, a title that ended an 11-year drought after Michigan cut down the nets in 1989. Before that, the Bobby Knight-led Hoosiers won national titles in 1987, 1981 and 1976 and Magic Johnson helped Michigan State beat Indiana State — with Larry Bird — in 1979 in a transcendent game.
Matta said the Big Ten is due for a title, telling reporters in Dayton, Ohio, it is “highly likely,” a team from the conference will win the national championship.
“There’s a very, very good chance of it,” he said. “The one thing about the Big Ten this year is you’ve got great players. Obviously, you’ve got great coaches.
“It will be interesting to see how it plays out.”
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