Wolverines may be ready to retake the state

For two decades, Michigan State University head coach and Iron Mountain native Tom Izzo has ruled the world of college basketball in Michigan from the Winter Throne out of East Lansing.

The House of Izzo has won a national championship and earned seven Final Four berths, eight regular-season Big Ten titles, five Big Ten Tournament titles, and will lead the Spartans to their 22nd consecutive appearance in the NCAA Tournament when brackets are announced tonight.

Now he has a rival who could topple him from his throne. University of Michigan coach John Beilein has been the Wolverines’ bench boss since 2007, and during the time he’s been head coach over in Ann Arbor, he’s always taken a back seat to Izzo.

Soon, though, he might start driving the car and move Izzo to the passenger seat.

The House of Beilein has grown from one whose best days were behind them and had suffered through six straight years of not making the Big Dance under the fragile House of Tommy Amaker.

Since then, U of M has gone to the national title game in 2013, made an Elite Eight berth, and last year upset No. 2-seeded Louisville to make the Sweet 16. The Wolverines have also won back-to-back Big Ten Tournament titles and two regular-season championships. Michigan has also beaten MSU three times in a row, including in their only meeting in the 2017-18 regular season and in an upset in the Big Ten Tournament last week.

That has to hurt at least a little for Izzo, who has to deal with much higher expectations than Beilein does. Spartans fans have been wanting another national title for quite awhile now, and just when MSU seems to be on the cusp of doing so, they fall just short.

Or in the case of 2016, ridiculously short. Remember Middle Tennessee State? I’m sure the Green and White faithful will never forget that school.

Beilein is in much the opposite situation. People don’t regularly expect Final Four appearances out of Michigan, but that could soon change as Beilein continues to help the Wolverines surpass their expectations.

Maize and Blue fans used to be happy to just upset MSU once in awhile and maybe make the NCAA Tournament. Now after three straight victories, this could become a yearly expectation.

Looking at this year’s team, the Spartans appeared to be a national title contender from the get-go and they were my pick in the preseason to win it all. Now, I’m not as sure as I was back in November.

In the recent battle between the Houses, MSU let its rival take over and it left many wondering if this team has what it takes to go all the way. Izzo tends to get his team to peak at the right time, but the NCAAs begin in a few days and the Spartans look like they’re about a level below where they need to be.

Meanwhile in Ann Arbor, Beilein has continued to do more with less and has turned a pretty good team at the start of the year into one that could go deep into the tournament. They had 26 points off of turnovers against the Spartans in East Lansing and got MSU into foul trouble out at Madison Square Garden, leading to some clutch free throws from Zavier Simpson, of all people, to help finish the job, which is causing people to rethink their brackets.

It may still be too soon to claim an end to the House of Izzo’s reign, but the rival clan to the southeast is growing in power and their leader is a formidable one that could seize power soon.

All the House of Beilein needs is that national title and it can finally claim the Throne.

Ryan Stieg can be reached at 906-228-2500, ext. 252. His email address is rstieg@miningjournal.net.