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Better Know A Gavitt Tipoff Games Opponent: Michigan State

Finally, we reach Marquette's most frequent non-Bucky Big Ten series, although that's slightly misleading, since there's only been one game since 1960.

Yeah, keep flexing, ya weirdo.
Yeah, keep flexing, ya weirdo.
Mike Carter-USA TODAY Sports

Marquette has a varying history with the members of the Big Ten.  They have a long running series with Wisconsin, of course, and there are a few other schools that MU has squared off with over the years.  With the announcement of the Gavitt Tipoff Games and at least six games against Big Ten opponents, we're going to check in on Marquette's history against each of the 13 teams and see what could make for the most interesting match ups.

For lack of any particular order of importance, we'll go in order of how many times Marquette has seen each particular opponent, and this week we wrap up our series with the non-Wisconsin Big Ten opponent that Marquette has played most often.

Michigan State

All Time Series: Michigan State leads, 31-23
Last Meeting: March 15, 2007

Oh, right.  THAT game.  Yes, Marquette fans had already grown accustomed to seeing Jerel McNeal in street clothes, as the sophomore had injured his thumb near the end of the regular season.  McNeal missed the last two games of the regular season (home wins over Pitt and Florida Gulf Coast) as well as the Big East tournament (win over St. John's & loss to Pitt), but Marquette still came into the NCAA tournament as an eight seed against the ninth seeded Spartans.

And then MU went nine minutes and forty seconds without scoring to open the game.

David Cubillan hit a triple with 10:20 left to mark MU's first points of the game, but the Golden Eagles trailed 30-18 at the half and because I worked nights at the time, I took a nap before I went in to work instead of watching the second half of that monstrosity.  The crazy thing is that Michigan State shot the ball incredibly well to get to their paltry 30 points, hitting 61% overall and 44% behind the arc.

Anyway.

If you're wondering how to get a series to 54 games while not contesting it between 1959 and 2007, it's simple: Play twice a season.  Between 1926-27 and 1942-43, MU and MSU played a home-and-home series every season, and after a brief interlude likely due to World War II, that set of games continued from 1946-47 through the 1949-50 season. In fact, Marquette and Michigan State played THREE times during the 1935-36 regular season.

Once the 1950s started, the series dropped down to just one game, but continued to be played every season until 1956-57.  The two teams would cease their regular season matchups at that point, but would meet one last time in the NCAA tournament before the turn of the century.  Eddie Hickey's Warriors squad chose the NCAA tournament over the NIT because that was a thing you could at the time, and after downing Bowling Green in their first game, encountered the Spartans in the Sweet 16.  Michigan State came away with a 74-69 victory behind 23 points and eight rebounds from Bob Anderegg, while Don Kojis had 17 points and a game high 21 rebounds for Marquette.

Michigan State has won the last three games in the series, eight of the last nine, and 13 of the last 17.  So, yeah, things got a little lopsided there at the end, but Michigan State also completely ducked out on the Al McGuire era at Marquette.  MSU had four different coaches while Al was roaming the sidelines in Milwaukee and compiled a record of 160-155 in that time while never qualifying for the NCAA tournament.  In fact, 1959 would be the last NCAA tournament appearance for Sparty until Magic Johnson arrived in East Lansing and took them to two straight tournaments and a national championship.

If you're reading this, that means you're a college basketball fan on some level, so you probably don't need me to tell you that Tom Izzo is the head coach of the Spartans.  Izzo is the longest tenured coach in the Big Ten by a wide, wide margin.  He's been on the Spartan sidelines since he was hired as an assistant by Jud Heathcote in 1983, and he was promoted to head coach when Heathcote retired in 1995.  It's the only Division 1 head coaching job Izzo's ever had, and it turns out, he's really, really good at it.  Izzo's Spartan teams have a winning percentage of .715, and they've never missed the post season.  In fact, after going to two NITs in Izzo's first two seasons, Michigan State hasn't missed the NCAA tournament since then, and they've advanced out of the round of 64 in all but four of 17 seasons.  When it comes time to fill out your NCAA tournament bracket, pick against Tom Izzo at your own peril.  Tthe only thing that might stop Michigan State from being a high quality opponent during the Gavitt Games series is going to be if the 59 year old Izzo decides he's had enough of coaching at some point in the next seven years.

The Breslin Student Events Center is the home of MSU basketball, but you probably think of it more in terms of the official name of the student section: The Izzone.  The student section at Michigan State games makes up four thousand of the 14,797 people in the Breslin Center.  Yes, I said "people," not "seats."  Michigan State reported an AVERAGE attendance of a sold out Breslin Center for the 2013-14 season, so Michigan State fans are not messing around here.