Michigan and Michigan State make history
by Gerry Ahern, USA TODAY Sports
AUBURN HILLS, Mich. — March has never been sweeter in the state of Michigan.
For the first time in the 75-year history of the NCAA tournament both Michigan and Michigan State have advanced to the Sweet 16.
The Big Ten’s Wolverines and Spartans earned their tickets right in their backyard, in dominating fashion, in a supercharged atmosphere Saturday at the Palace.
Michigan, just 36 miles from its Ann Arbor campus, started the celebration, dissecting Virginia Commonwealth’s vaunted press 78-53 in the opener.
Michigan State, 81 miles from East Lansing, made it a historic day, slamming the front door on Memphis 70-48.
“I was surprised today,” Michigan State coach Tom Izzo said. “I was pulling for everybody (in the Big Ten) today.
“It’s pretty neat for our state to have two teams, playing in one of the greatest basketball facilities in the country here in Detroit. I thought that was pretty awesome.”
This is MSU’s 11th Sweet 16 appearance under Izzo. UM advances to this round for the first time since 1994. The rival programs helped the Big Ten move to 8-1 in the tournament.
“At the University of Michigan, we want to be champions, we’re trying for Big Ten championships,” coach John Beilein said. “And when you get in the NCAA tournament, you’re trying to do the exact same thing.”
The Wolverines (28-7) and Spartans (27-8) vanquished the visitors in blue-collar style. What else would you expect in the home of the auto industry?
Michigan held VCU (27-9) to 39.7 percent shooting and won the rebounding battle 41-24.
MSU was even more dominant defensively and on the glass, holding the Tigers (31-5) to 29.7 percent shooting and beating them 49-29 on the boards.
The locals loved it when Michigan’s Mitch McGary set a screen that sent VCU guard Briante Weber crashing to the court.
“I set a good, hard screen and the man happened to run into my chest,” said a smiling McGary, who starred with 21 points and 14 rebounds, making 10 of 11 shots including a series of dunks. “It was a legal screen I didn’t mean intentionally for him to fall down, but it happened.”
Later, the crowd seemed to … [For more on Both Michigan and Michigan State make history with Sweet 16 tickets, click here.]