On Tuesday night in Ann Arbor, the No. 9 Michigan State Spartans will take on the No. 19 Michigan Wolverines in the latest chapter of one of the great rivalries in college sports. This chapter features a ranked team on each side of the rivalry for the first time since Feb. 17, 1998. After that game, which the Spartans won 80-75, the two programs went in different directions. Michigan State became a powerhouse, whereas Michigan headed to the bottom of the Big Ten. Only recently have the Wolverines started building their basketball program back up, and they actually won both meetings with the Spartans last season.
This season, the implications for the first of two meetings between Michigan and Michigan State go beyond the rivalry. The Spartans are tied for first in the Big Ten with Illinois at 4-1 in the conference, and Michigan is only half a game back at 4-2. With how strong the Big Ten is this year, games like this could very well play a role in deciding the conference champion come March.
Interestingly enough, both teams enter Tuesday's game coming off of a loss. Michigan State had its 15-game winning streak snapped on Saturday by Northwestern in Evanston. Michigan State struggled in containing the Wildcats' offense and lost 81-74 as a result. Hours earlier, Michigan went down at Iowa in an ugly 75-59 loss. It was by far the Wolverines' worst game of the season, and it came just days after they narrowly held off Northwestern in overtime at home. By comparison, Michigan State cruised to a 34-point victory at home against Iowa early last week.
Tuesday's game between the Spartans and Wolverines is set to tip off at 7 p.m. (Eastern Time). ESPN will have the broadcast, and Ann Arbor resident Mike Tirico will be on the call along with Dan Dakich.
For more on the Michigan Wolverines, check out Maize n Brew. For more on the Michigan State Spartans, go to The Only Colors. You can also head over to SB Nation's main NCAA Basketball hub at SBNation.com/NCAA-Basketball.