ca-thar-sis (noun): the purging of emotions, or relieving of emotional tensions, especially through certain kinds of art, as tragedy or music.
Yeah, that sounds about right.
The question of whether or not John Beilein and the Michigan basketball program has reached parity with Tom Izzo’s Spartan program has been answered. It’s not a matter of opinion anymore. It’s not subject to the vagaries of partisan fandom that cloud objectivity.
Six of Eight. Six. Of. Eight.
That’s science folks. Pure, simple, unassailable statistics; and it is so, so sweet. As Beilein has built his program from tournament bubble team to conference title contender to conference champion and finally Final Four program, the measurement of Beilein’s Michigan to Izzo’s Spartans has been the theme in local media, with the narrative typically being, “Michigan’s closing the gap, but MSU is still the dominant program”. After Sunday, that narrative is blown to smithereens. Any media talking head trying to advance the notion that Tom Izzo still has the edge over John Beilein is just trolling for internet clicks. Check the math guys.
Six of Eight.
The 21stcentury up to this point has been tough for Michigan fans. We’ve all had to suffer a slow, agonizing decline in many of our beloved sports teams. To add insult to injury, this decline coincided with the rise of the internet and social media, almost as if Mark Zuckerberg invented Facebook just so our rivals could chip away at the prestige of our beloved Michigan. Nowhere has this been more pronounced than in basketball, where we not only saw our once proud program fall in the volcanic morass of NCAA sanctions and probation, but saw our hated rival rise in its wake. It chafed our collective ego to see Tom Izzo elevated by the Dick Vitale’s of the world to the status of Big 10 John Wooden, all the while ignoring the subtle fact that the Spartan’s rise correlated almost directly with Michigan’s fall. And while we as Michigan fans suspected that the Spartan’s emperor may have no clothes, such insight was met by derision by the Spartan faithful as sour grapes, boosted by massive winning streaks over half a decade.
Today that narrative is tossed on its head. Heading into Sunday, Spartan fans conviction that Izzo would right the ship in this game was absolute. It was what he and the Spartans had always done in the past. MSU would come into Crisler and beat Michigan and claim the drivers seat to the conference championship and send Wolverine Nation home disappointed, again; because Coach Izzo is the real deal and John Beilein is a just a pretender who runs a gimmick system. News flash to all those self-assured doubters in East Lansing. John Beilein can scout talent. John Beilein can recruit talent. John Beilein can develop talent. John Beilein can game plan, and John Beilein can coach. And he does it as well as, if not better than your false idol.
Sunday is not some isolated moment in the history of this rivalry. It’s the culmination that has been four years in the making. While Beilein has been recruiting players the caliber of Mitch McGary and Glenn Robinson III, Izzo has been striking out on blue chippers like Jabari Parker. While Beilein has been developing players like Trey Burke into NPOY and NBA Rookie of the Year, Izzo is making excuses for players who have not quite reached the potential that their recruiting hype promised like Keith Appling. Beilein pulls hockey sticks out of the hands of Canadians and turns them into All-American death-dealers; Izzo teaches his players to slap the floor like lower primates to...to what? Prove that they're the alpha males?
Today the internet is abuzz with Spartans who are struggling to deal with their new reality as the 2ndbest basketball program in the state of Michigan. They will challenge the verity of Michigan’s preeminence with the impotent standard of matching Izzo’s Final Four total or winning the National Championship before respect is paid. But that’s not what this article is about. It’s about six of eight, and the inconvenient truth that while John Beilein may not match Tom Izzo’s record in the NCAA Tournament, he has passed MSU, and if he has done that, then maybe Izzo's house wasn’t built out of bricks after all.
Six of Eight. Catharsis, ladies and gentlemen. It’s been a long time coming. Smile and exhale.