Midwest Regional

March 25, 2000|By Jamison Hensley

Today's championship game

No. 1 Michigan State (29-7)

vs. No. 2 Iowa State (32-4)

Site: Auburn Hills, Mich.

Time: 7 p.m.

TV: Chs. 13, 9

Line: Michigan State by 5 1/2

Conference records: Michigan State finished first in the Big 10 with a 13-3 record and followed a regular-season title with a tournament championship for the second straight season. Iowa State was 14-2 for first place in the Big 12 and captured its first conference title since 1945.

Coaches: Tom Izzo is 117-48 in his fifth year with the Spartans, his only head-coaching experience. Larry Eustachy is 47-19 in his second season and 206-105 in 10 seasons overall, which included stops at Idaho and Utah State.

Starting lineups: Michigan State: PG Mateen Cleaves (12.0 ppg, 7.5 apg); G Charlie Bell (11.9 ppg, 3.2 apg); F Morris Peterson (16.6 ppg, 6.1 rpg); F A.J. Granger (9.2 ppg, 5.3 rpg); F Andre Hutson (10.1 ppg, 6.1 rpg). Iowa State: PG Jamaal Tinsley (10.8 ppg, 6.7 apg); G Michael Nurse (12.3 ppg, 2.2 apg); F Stevie Johnson (9.3 ppg, 6.1 rpg); F Kantrail Horton (8.8 ppg, 4.1 rpg); C Marcus Fizer (23.0 ppg, 7.8 rpg).

Bench strength: Michigan State has depth on the bench (nine players average 14 minutes), just not a lot of production. In their past two tournament games, the Spartans have received a total of eight points from the backups, with Mike Chappell (6.1 ppg) in the midst of a month-long disappearing act. The running joke around Ames, Iowa, is that Iowa State's bench is basically a rumor. The Cyclones' starters have played for 541 of the 600 minutes in three tournament games (90 percent).

Key matchup: Cleaves is a second-team All-American, yet he hasn't faced a point guard this season with the raw ability of Tinsley. If Cleaves cannot stop Tinsley from free-wheeling to the basket, the Spartans could be playing catch-up all game. If the Brooklyn, N.Y., playground star cannot drive, the Cyclones could have problems matching up with bigger Michigan State in the half court.

What Michigan State needs to do to win: Slow the ball down and keep feed- ing the post. The Spartans have an average three-inch height advantage in the frontcourt, and their best looks will come from inside the paint or from Peterson on the wing. They won't have the open shots they had against the Syracuse zone, and Tinsley and Nurse pressure the backcourt with the best.

What Iowa State needs to do to win: Step on the accelerator and stay out of foul trouble. Fizer reaps all the headlines while Tinsley is considered by Big 12 coaches as the team's most valuable player, keying the Cyclones at their best -- on the fast break. Iowa State must also match the physical play of Michigan State without fouling, because depth is its most exposable weakness.

Bottom line: Michigan State hasn't lost in its home state in nearly two years and Iowa State has never reached the Final Four. But the Spartans have started sluggishly the past two games and the Cyclones have beaten the odds all season. Prime-time performances by Fizer and Tinsley could send this undersized underdog to uncharted ground, the Final Four in Indianapolis.

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