The matchups

April 03, 2000|By Jamison Hensley

Point guard

Mateen Cleaves has slumped his past two games, but college basketball's most assertive floor leader should be primed for his last game. He may have to tone down his excitement, concentrating on beating the press and not shooting. Justin Hamilton, a converted shooting guard, isn't as effective as his backup, Brett Nelson, but takes better care of the ball. Edge: Michigan State.

Shooting guard

Charlie Bell has made up for disappointing offensive efforts recently with his defense. Bell also could bail the Spartans out of some jams against Florida's press. Teddy Dupay has been a question mark, making only two field goals in two games and missing eight of his past nine three-pointers. Edge: Michigan State.

Small forward

Morris Peterson has waited to show up at halftime the past three games, but the Spartans' leading scorer has lifted them every step to the championship game. He can post up, shoot the three and crash the boards, giving Florida's Mike Miller maybe too much to handle. Miller, the Gators' leading scorer, had his second-worst shooting game of the season against Carolina (3-for-13). Edge: Michigan State.

Power forward

Not suited for the half-court game, A.J. Granger missed all three of his shots against Wisconsin. He will find more opportunities in a fast-paced tempo tonight. Brent Wright is more well-rounded, but has a volatile attitude with two suspensions this season. Edge: Florida.

Center

Andre Hutson won't call for the ball on offense, yet few can wrestle it away on rebounds. He frustrated Iowa State's Marcus Fizer a week ago on defense and has rarely gotten beat down low this tournament. Udonis Haslem won't be pushed around either and has hit 19 of his past 29 shots (65.5 percent). His 260-pound frame will serve him well against Hutson. Edge: Even.

Bench

Michigan State rotates Mike Chappell, Jason Richardson and Aloysius Anagonye into the lineup, yet none has made a positive impact in the tournament. Florida's second line of Brett Nelson, Donnell Harvey, Matt Bonner, Kenyan Weaks and Major Parker would be a formidable starting five for most teams. The Gators' backups have averaged 31.9 points. Edge: Florida, by large margin.

Coach

Tom Izzo has never lost as a favorite in the tournament, winning all 11 times. It'll prove interesting how he'll attack Florida's press and use his bench. Florida's style is an extension of Billy Donovan, 34, who is looking to become the youngest coach in 59 years to win the title. Edge: Even.

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