Has Michigan basketball actually caught up with Michigan State?

Earlier this afternoon Oakland Press columnist Pat Caputo published a blog entry focusing on how he believes Michigan has roared back to catch Michigan State's program on the hardwood. For as much of an ego stroke as it might be to bask in his conclusion as Wolverine fans, the premise makes little sense to us.

Here's his take:

Michigan's basketball program has caught Michigan State's. Why? The proof?

They had the same record this season in the Big Ten, sharing the conference title. They split their two meetings. The Spartans schedule was tougher than Michigan's overall, but not to the degree MSU's faithful is saying.

And then there is next season. State will be formidable, but won't have Draymond Green. Michigan figures to be better than State if Trey Burke, Tim Hardaway Jr. and Jordan Morgan return (there is no indication they won't), and with the addition of a much needed big man in five-star recruit Mitch McGary.

Pat does go on to acknowledge that if State makes a run to the Final Four and Michigan is bounced early again that his point will essentially be nullified. Then again, the piece was entitled "Hard evidence suggests UM has caught MSU", despite the lack of said evidence to support his claim.

Let's be real here. The Spartans have a handful of Final Four appearances and a not-so-distant national championship on their resume, and that's just in the last decade or so. How on Earth you can even begin to compare that with a Michigan program that hasn't been to a Sweet 16 since 1994 is anyone's guess. I'm as optimistic as the next guy wearing maize and blue, but I fail to see how one great regular season by this current UM squad more or less cancels out all of the things that Tom Izzo's program has accomplished over the last dozen years.

A share of the Big Ten title and a head-to-head split aren't enough in tandem to miraculously pull things even between the two programs in my mind. It just means the schools tied this particular season, and that the Wolverines are now much further along their path towards eventually evening things up. For Michigan to actually "catch" the Spartans, it seems paramount for Beilein's program to outperform MSU in both the NCAA tournament and regular season at least a few times. And because this hasn't happened yet, any feel-good arguments like Caputo's above will have zero merit.

The future in Ann Arbor is as bright as ever with Mitch McGary coming in and many key players set to return. But this is a results-based sport, and Michigan needs to prove it belongs among the elite of the elite in college hoops by actually playing like a Big Ten champion should. Until that happens, maybe we should cease this talk about the Wolverines catching up to Izzo's East Lansing juggernaut.

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