Tyler Fenwick - For Indiana As Michigan's 3rd Biggest Basketball Rival
1) I had to think about this one for a little bit before chosing the Hoosiers of Indiana as Michigan's 3rd biggest rival in basketball. However, I'm not chosing Indiana because a tight or competetive history between the two teams. As Thomas points out below, the Hoosiers have dominated the all-time series. But it has become much more competetive is recent years. For the most part, teams are holding serve at home. Michigan's last win in Bloomington came in 2009, so home court advantage has been huge as of late.
2) Both teams are rising in the Big Ten and on a national scale at a quicker rate than most predicted. Indiana is projected by most analysts to be the number one team in the nation heading into the 2012 season, and the Wolverines have a very good chance to make a lot of noise in the Big Ten. Plus, both teams find their success in similar ways. They depend on a typical, strong Big Ten defense. On offense, there is a lot of penetration and finding a shooter out on the wing. When they meet up, it comes down to who can make the biggest shots and come up with the biggest stops. That alone makes it very exciting. Now both teams have a very good recruting class coming in, so it will only get better.
Thomas Beindit - For Illinois As Michigan's 3rd Biggest Basketball Rival
1) The first thing here is competitivness. For the most part, many of Big Ten teams that Michigan faces have either a major advantage or deficit when they face Michigan. Before writing this I debated Indiana and Illinois primarily, but settled on Illinois because of the way they competed with Michigan. Indiana has dominated Michigan with a record of 101-51, but Illinois leads Michigan only by a ratio of 84-74. John Beilein could coach Michigan for another ten years, beat Indiana three times per year and still have a deficit of 30 games. Michigan has a reasonable shot at tying or taking the lead in the Illinois series under Beilein. Overall records don't necessarily determine the intensity of a rivalry (see my points in the football rivalry debate), but they are important to gauging a rivalry's importance. Michigan and Indiana will probably be fierce rivals for the next few years and hopefully the future, but on average, Illinois is going to be a bigger rivalry for Wolverines fans. They may value a win over Indiana more because of Indiana's prestige, but that isn't what makes a rivalry, it's the competitiveness between the two teams.
2) The next thing that makes Illinois one of the better basketball rivalries for Michigan is the fact that it often random. This may sound counterproductive, but in this case, I think it adds a lot to the excitement of the rivalry. Other rivalries may be super competitive, but Michigan and Illinois will swing back and forth. Look at the last few seasons. In 2007-2008, Michigan and Illinois split their series with one another. However, Illinois then won the next four games. This would seem to be a trend, but Michigan struck back and has won the last three games in the series. That means that over the last nine games in the series, the score is Illinois 4-3. That's very competitive and really leaves everything up in the air. The fact that either one of these teams can get hot in this series and it still remains very close it what makes this Michigan's 3rd biggest basketball rivalry.
Tyler - You do make a great case for Illinois being Michigan's 3rd biggest basketball rival, and that's who I considered along side Indiana. I do live in Indiana, so I can tell you fans hate playing the Wolverines because of the potential dangers that come with a sharp shooting team. That creates a natural rivalry atmosphere, in my opinion.
Thomas - I do think that the Michigan - Indiana series should be one of the better ones for hte next few years, but that's the point, the next few years. In ten years, things will probably be very different and one of the two teams will probably be much better (I'm holding out hope it will be Michigan). The series with Michigan and Illinois will probably still be very competitive and one of the best in the Big Ten on a yearly basis. To me, a great rivalry combines current and past play. There may have been some great match-ups with Indiana and Michigan in the past, but not quite as many as Michigan and Illinois. Even when one of the teams takes a significant advantage, it almost always evens out pretty soon, as evidenced by the last few seasons. Michigan - Indiana is a great series, but just not quite as good as Michigan - Illinois. I will probably look forward to Michigan - Indiana more this year, but the real question for me is, will I look forward to it more than just next year?
All writers are entitled to their own opinion and those may or may not represent the held beliefs of Hoke's Mad Magicians as an entity. Readers are welcome to comment below or contact the writers via Twitter with their thoughts