DETROIT – It’s been a heck of a run.
I’m talking about the 2019 Spartans and the 2018 Wolverines. Two straight years, two Final Four appearances. That’s pretty awesome.
John Beilein said something this season to the effect of, "Michigan and Michigan State basketball are two fantastic programs, show me another state with that level of success."
Some people brought up Duke and North Carolina, but even those two schools don’t compare to Michigan and Michigan State in the last two years.
As a reporter, it’s been a blast to cover.
Last year, the Wolverines were such a fun group to watch. They were unranked to start the season, then won the Big Ten Tournament title, sweeping rival Michigan State in two meetings.
Then, they won five games in the NCAA tournament, with Jordan Poole’s last-second buzzer-beater against Houston as the highlight of all highlights. In the national championship game, Michigan ran into a hot team in Villanova and a hot player in Donte DiVencenzo who had a career night with 31 points.
The 79-62 loss certainly stung.
In that post-game locker room, there were tears and long faces, but in time, the Wolverines were able to get perspective on what they had accomplished.
This year, Michigan State overcame so much adversity. Injuries sidelined Josh Langford, Nick Ward and Kyle Ahrens, and yet, the green and white still won the Big Ten regular season and the Big Ten Tournament titles.
MSU beat Michigan three times and took down the No. 1 overall seed in Duke to make it to the Final Four. It was really fun to watch Cassius Winston grow into a leader on the court and a star at the Final Four as many people walked around rocking his signature head band.
In the semifinal game, the Spartans ran into a tough Texas Tech defense that stifled their offense and forced seven turnovers. As Tom Izzo put it, "They beat us at our own game."
There were tears in the MSU locker room in Minneapolis, too, especially for seniors Kenny Goins and Matt McQuaid. But soon, time will give the Spartans perspective on what they have accomplished and what a special team they were. Xavier Tillman called his team “overachievers” and said they learned a lot this season and will be back.
It’s been a fantastic two years for Michigan and Michigan State basketball. It’s been a fun ride. I’m so grateful to have been able to cover both runs. Here’s to hoping the next time I cover a Final Four, a local team wins the title.