Ncaa Men's Tournament

April 01, 2000|By Jamison Hensley

Where: RCA Dome, Indianapolis

When: 5: 42, tonight

TV: Chs. 13, 9

How they got here: Michigan State received an automatic bid by winning the Big Ten tournament for the second straight year, and Wisconsin sweated it out as a bubble team before receiving its fourth at-large bid in seven years. The Spartans, the only top seed to advance past the Sweet 16, routed No. 16 Valparaiso in the Midwest Regional first round, 68-35, and then needed second-half rallies to defeat No. 8 Utah, 73-61; No. 4 Syracuse, 75-58; and No. 2 Iowa State, 75-64. The Badgers became the first team in NCAA tournament history to advance to the Final Four with 13 defeats, beating North Carolina by a day. They won the clash of styles with No. 9 Fresno State, 66-56, before their West Regional upsets of No. 1 Arizona, 66-59; No. 4 Louisiana State, 61-48; and No. 6 Purdue, 64-60.

Conference records: Michigan State was 13-3 in the Big Ten, earning a tie of the regular-season title with Ohio State. Wisconsin finished 8-8 for sixth in the Big Ten, rebounding from a 1-4 start in the league.

Rankings: Michigan State was ranked No. 2 in the final Associated Press poll behind Duke and Wisconsin was unranked, receiving three votes.

Coaches: Tom Izzo is 118-48 in five seasons at Michigan State. Dick Bennett is 91-67 in five seasons at Wisconsin and 451-256 in 24 seasons overall with stops in Wisconsin-Stevens Point and Wisconsin-Green Bay.

NCAA tournament records: Michigan State, which is 27-13 in 14 tournament appearances, is making its fourth trip to the Final Four, winning once (1979). Wisconsin, which is 9-4 in six NCAA tournament trips, is in its first national semifinal since 1941, when it eventually won its only national title.

What Michigan State has to do to win: The Spartans have to stick to the same game plan that led to three wins over Wisconsin this season. They have to be effective in their half-court game and put a hand in the Badgers' faces defensively. The Spartans have more experience and more athletes, which equals favorable matchups across the board. It's their game to lose.

What Wisconsin has to do to win: The Badgers have to stick to the game plan that led them to their first Final Four in six decades. They must counter State's talent by slowing the game down and have to attack the nation's top rebounding team on the boards. A key will be how many second chances the Badgers create for themselves and limit for State.

Bottom line: It's not a fluke that Michigan State won the Big Ten championship and Wisconsin finished sixth. It's also not a fluke that the Spartans have owned the Badgers, winning all three meetings. Expect a Michigan State grand slam.

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