Midwest Regional

March 23, 2000|By Jamison Hensley

Tonight's semifinals

No. 1 Michigan State (28-7) vs. No. 4 Syracuse (26-5)

Site: Auburn Hills, Mich.

Time: 7: 38

TV: Chs. 13, 9

Line: Michigan State by 7 1/2

Conference records: Michigan State finished first in the Big Ten with a 13-3 record and won its second consecutive conference tournament championship. Syracuse was 13-3 in the Big East for a first-place tie, but was upset by Georgetown in the opening round of the league tournament.

Coaches: Tom Izzo is 116-48 in his fifth year with the Spartans, his only head coaching experience. Jim Boeheim, the Big East Coach of the Year, is 575-198 in his 24th season with the Orangemen.

Starting lineups: Michigan State: PG Mateen Cleaves (12.1 ppg, 7.5 apg); G Charlie Bell (11.9 ppg, 3.1 apg); F Morris Peterson (16.5 ppg, 6.2 rpg); F A. J. Granger (8.9 ppg, 5.3 rpg); F Andre Hutson (10.1 ppg, 6.2 rpg). Syracuse: PG Jason Hart (12.0 ppg, 6.4 apg); G Tony Bland (6.8 ppg, 1.8 apg); F Damone Brown (10.8 ppg, 6.2 rpg), F Ryan Blackwell (10.9 ppg, 7.2 rpg); C Etan Thomas (13.9 ppg, 9.4 rpg).

Bench strength: Michigan State relies on Mike Chappell (6.2 ppg) and Jason Richardson (5.5) for some pop off the bench. The Spartans, however, will call on their starters to log in 30-plus minutes if the game is tight. The Orangemen may be thinner than State, but no backup will make a bigger impact than Syracuse G Preston Shumpert, who scored the game-winning basket against Kentucky in the NCAA second round.

Key matchup: The focus has been on the point guards: Cleaves vs. Hart. It may not depend on their scoring, but which floor leader directs his offense the best. Hart's defensive ability will receive its toughest test of the tournament.

What Michigan State needs to do to win: Shred the Syracuse zone. The Spartans have the ingredients to take the Orangemen out of their defensive scheme with the penetrating ability of Cleaves, their solid inside-out play and resilience on the boards.

What Syracuse needs to do to win: Take control early. The Palace of Auburn Hills will feel like an away game with Michigan State's East Lansing home only a short drive away. Syracuse also needs to box out, or the Spartans' second chances could give the Orangemen absolutely no chance.

Bottom line: Before the seedings were announced, Boeheim said his favorite to win it all was Michigan State. He's right. The Spartans attack in so many directions that they'll be hard to stop anywhere, much less their own backyard of Michigan, where they are 15-0 this season.

No. 2 Iowa State (31-4)

vs. No. 6 UCLA (21-11)

Site: Auburn Hills, Mich.

Time: 9: 55

TV: Chs. 13, 9

Line: Iowa State by 1 1/2

Conference records: Iowa State was 14-2 for first place in the Big 12 and captured the second conference title in school history. UCLA finished 10-8 to tie for fourth place in the Pac-10.

Coaches: Larry Eustachy is 46-19 in his second season and 205-105 in 10 seasons overall. Steve Lavin is 91-37 in his fourth season at UCLA after serving four years as a Bruins assistant.

Starting lineups: Iowa State: PG Jamaal Tinsley (10.7 ppg, 6.6 apg); G Michael Nurse (12.2 ppg, 2.2 apg); F Stevie Johnson (9.1 ppg, 6.1 rpg); F Kantrail Horton (8.8 ppg, 4.1 rpg); C Marcus Fizer (23.2 ppg, 7.8 rpg). UCLA: PG Earl Watson (11.5 ppg, 5.9 apg); G Billy Knight (5.5 ppg, 2.1 rpg); F Jason Kapono (16.3 ppg, 4.4 rpg); F Sean Farnham (1.4 ppg, 1.2 rpg); C Jerome Moiso (12.9 ppg, 7.6 rpg).

Bench strength: The Cyclones' bench has a good view of the game and usually doesn't have to give it up. In Iowa State's second-round win over Auburn, its starters played the entire second half. For UCLA, JaRon Rush and Dan Gadzuric are hardly backups, usually subbing for Knight and Farnham by the third minute. Rush is a high-flying forward, and Gadzuric provides size inside.

Key matchup: Fizer vs. Moiso, Gadzuric and Matt Barnes. The Cyclones' first-team All-American will see a turnstile of forwards coming at him, mainly with Moiso relying on his speed and Gadzuric using his 250-pound frame. But there's nothing that Fizer hasn't seen defensively this season.

What Iowa State needs to do to win: Punch the ball inside to Fizer. The Cyclones cannot afford another slow start by Fizer when facing confident UCLA. If Fizer forces the Bruins to crowd him down low, it's up to Tinsley and Nurse to knock down the open jumpers. Then again, Fizer has been known to carry Iowa State against any defense.

What UCLA needs to do to win: Push the tempo. Despite their size advantage, UCLA doesn't want to match up against Iowa State's in-your-face, half-court defense. The Bruins are at their best when they can get their opponent as out-of-control as themselves.

Bottom line: The overall speed of these teams promises to make this game the best of the round of 16. Although Iowa State likes to run, it has to learn to pick its chances or UCLA will slam down another upset. The fast breaks probably will become a wash, and the question that remains: Do the Bruins have enough discipline to stop Fizer?

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