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Monday, January 20, 2014


The Spartans will defend home court against the Wolverines this weekend in men's basketball. It's the first meeting of the season, after the two teams split a pair of regular-season games last year. Michigan State won by 23 in East Lansing before losing by a point in the last second of the game in Ann Arbor in 2013.

Some folks are thinking that the series is fairly even now, since UM won four of the last six games (two of them by a single point). A guy named "SomeGuy73", who posts a lot on MLive, suggested recently that Michigan fans could claim a new basketball supremacy in the same way that Michigan State fans claim that status in football. Hmmm. Maybe we should take a closer look.

Here are the outcomes of the last 10 games between MSU and UM in Men's Basketball, listed in chronological order with the winner and final margin (bottom = most recent):

  • MSU by 15
  • MSU by 12
  • MSU by 1
  • MSU by 16
  • UM by 4
  • UM by 7
  • UM by 1
  • MSU by 10
  • MSU by 23
  • UM by 1

A quick sum of the numbers shows that UM outscored MSU by 13 points in its four wins, while the Spartans outscored the Wolverines by 77 points in their six wins. That's a 10-year margin of +64 points for MSU. So the last ten games are 60%-40% for Michigan State, with an average annual margin of 6-7 points per game. Pretty close, but if you had to designate one team as better, the data favors Tom Izzo.

Now let's take a look at the overall team performance on a season-by-season basis over the last five years. (We'll leave years six through ten for later review, as we're confident those UM years will pale in comparison to the same seasons for MSU.)


  • 2009:  31-7 first place / final four
  • 2010:  29-9 first place / final four
  • 2011:  19-15 fourth place / first round
  • 2012:   29-8 first place / sweet sixteen
  • 2013:   27-9 second place / sweet sixteen

MSU FIVE YEAR TOTAL = 135-48 (.738)
Five Big Dance Bids, Two Final Fours, Two Sweet Sixteens


  • 2009:  20-13 seventh place / second round
  • 2010:  15-17 seventh place / no tournament
  • 2011:  20-13 fourth place / second round
  • 2012:  24-9 first place / first round
  • 2013:  26-7 fourth place / final four

UM FIVE YEAR TOTAL = 105-59 (.640)
Four Big Dance Bids, One Final Four

Over the past five years, MSU has won about 10% more games, including three conference titles and two final fours, compared to one each for UM. Again, the data favors Sparty.

None of this foretells the game on Saturday, but it appears the tide hasn't quite turned towards the yellow-and-blue, or even all the way to "even". The next few games in the series could swing the pendulum either way, or it could begin to settle in the middle. But for now, the Spartans control the series, and will seek to extend their advantage this weekend.

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