Everyone has been all a-Twitter about how Michigan basketball has eclipsed Michigan State as a program. As a Michigan State fan this felt wrong for any number of reasons, but mostly because it struck me as factually untrue. But I realized I needed some statistical evidence to back me up.
The other interesting comparison was with the football rivalry; this season was apparently the season where MSU finally eclipsed UM on the gridiron. This also seemed wrong to me, as I have felt like MSU has been the better program for quite some time, but again I needed statistical evidence. The good news here is that Brian Fremeau from Football Outsiders has a Program FEI metric, which rates teams based upon their previous five seasons. For more information on FEI check out Brian's site. Program FEI for 2013 includes games from 2013 back to 2009, Program FEI from 2012 includes games from 2012 back to 2008, and so on. Here is the comparison of PFEI for UM and MSU going back five years:
It is pretty clear that MSU football eclipsed UM football as a program in 2010, according to Program FEI. This feels about right to me, with the way that game went that year (a beatdown in Ann Arbor) and the season in general. The gap closed some in the ensuing few years, but has widened again.
Back to basketball. KenPom doesn't do program ratings, but we can do the same exercise using his ratings. Fremeau doesn't publish how he weights the seasons for Program FEI, but I got pretty close with a 40-30-15-10-5 weighting, as of right now, what are the program KenPom ratings for each team (from 2010-2014)?
Michigan State: 0.9066
If you're not a fan of my weighting, lets look at some other measures. Michigan has the 6-4 edge head to head. Both teams have made one Final Four. If you give the Big Ten Title outright for 2014 to Michigan, both teams have two Big Ten Titles. I don't know man, that's pretty even. If you include that Michigan missed the tourney completely in 2010, and the only Big Ten Tournament title of the two belongs to Michigan State, it is very close.
Over the rest of the season and tournament, Michigan could potentially eclipse MSU. Right now, at this point in the season, it seems clear that Michigan has the better team for 2014. But I'm not convinced they have the better program just yet. And at worst, it should be a tooth-and-nail argument.