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Thursday, April 11, 2013


The college basketball playoffs are the most exciting event in amateur sports, largely because of the unpredictability of the event. Upsets are so common that the tournament was nicknamed "March Madness". So-called Cinderella teams like Wichita State this year, or George Mason in recent history, have captured the hearts of sports fans with their improbable runs to the Final Four.

In the final game, it's usually a highly seeded team that prevails, with occasional exceptions like 3-seeds Florida (2006) and Syracuse (2003). 4-seed Arizona beat a pair of 1-seeds to win it all in 1997, but they were the lowest ranked team to win the title in the last quarter of a century.

Exciting as it may be for the underdog to make a run, it only seems appropriate for the tournament champion to be a team that already won its league title, either in the regular season, or in the league tournament, or both. Such was the case this season with Louisville. The Cardinals completed the trifecta for a Golden Season that will shine for years to come.

The Michigan Basketball team has never had such a Golden Season. Their only NCAA Tournament title came in a year that they finished in 3rd-place in the Big Ten. The only times they won the league title and made the Final Four was in 1964 and 1965. Every other Final Four year for UM has come after a non-championship conference finish. And every other time they won the league title, they have failed to reach the Final Four.

Michigan State has had six Golden Seasons, the most recent being three years ago. The Spartans won their regular season league title and made the Final Four in 1979, 1999, 2000, 2001, 2009, and 2010. MSU also won the league tournament in 1999 and 2000. Both National Championship seasons included conference titles (1979 & 2000). These years were not built on short winning streaks or exciting runs, they were based on wire-to-wire dominance.

So it's no wonder we wear the shirts and hats and wave the flags to commemorate such memorable achievements. There were no blips on the screen, no wave-riding to a single trophy in these years. These were awesome years of tough players, great coaching, and wall-to-wall teamwork. They should be celebrated and remembered by all Spartans.

And no wonder the Wolverines are jealous, they've never had anything like it. It's been 48 years since they put together a conference title and a Final Four in the same year, and back then the Big Dance was the Little Sock Hop, with only 23 schools in the mix. They've gotten so sore watching Michigan State run past them and leave them in the dust that they've made up urban legends about Tom Izzo not being able to "win the big one". Izzo and his Spartans have crafted five Golden Seasons since 1999, while the Michigan program was imploding on its own deceit, denial, deception, and dishonesty.

The Spartan Basketball program has made its reputation with hard work and determination, while their arrogant southern cousins have devoted themselves to sinister skulduggery and shady subterfuge. While no allegations have been made about the John Beilein program to date, remember all the years it took for the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) to crack the blue wall last time.

We should remind the yellow-shoe lovers that they ought to defer their gratuitous celebrations over their limited recent success until enough years have passed that we know it was for real. In the meantime, Spartans can take pride in the great achievements of years gone by, knowing that our detractors have literally "never been there before".

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