The X-factor

Ncaa Tournament

The Final Four

March 31, 2001

Marcus Taylor, Michigan State

The Spartans start senior David Thomas on the wing and sophomore Aloysius Anagonye down low, but they are at their best when coach Tom Izzo sends in his superb freshmen, Marcus Taylor and Zach Randolph, to work with the big three of Charlie Bell, Jason Richardson and Andre Hutson. Taylor and Randolph were inserted into the starting lineup after a Jan. 7 loss at Indiana, but Izzo went back to bringing them off the bench after a Feb. 6 loss at Illinois.

Taylor, 6 feet 3, 190 pounds, allows Bell to move from the point to the wing opposite Richardson, which increases the Spartans' offensive efficiency. Taylor is fifth on the team in minutes played, averaging 22.1, and Michigan State is better on the break with him.

A homegrown product who starred at Lansing's Waverly High, Taylor made all of the prep All-America teams, and is expected to run the Spartans over the next three seasons.

He displayed his talent early in the season, when he collected 15 points and seven assists as a rematch of last year's NCAA championship turned into a rout of Florida. Taylor missed three games in December with a broken finger in his right hand, which may explain his field-goal percentage of .399. Only Bell averages more than his 3.6 assists.

Eugene Edgerson, Arizona

One of three seniors left from the Wildcats' 1997 championship team, Edgerson provides leadership and a defensive spark off the bench as a key reserve.

The 6-foot-6 power forward, who averages 4.7 points and 4.0 rebounds in 12.9 minutes this season, will be asked to come in to do the dirty work down low against a strong-rebounding Michigan State team.

Edgerson said he has a clear task tonight against the defending champion Spartans.

"My role is to just get it done defensively. I'm the energy," he said. "In order for me to give my best, I have to come out with 100 percent energy."

With his hair, knee pads and high socks, Edgerson looks like a throwback to the days of the ABA. Edgerson's numbers have increased in tournament play, when he's averaged 6.3 points on 7-for-10 shooting while adding 5.5 rebounds a game.

He said he was planning to talk with his younger teammates last night to share his experience in winning a national championship. That experience will help out his game, he said.

"You're not as nervous as someone who hasn't been here before," he said. "Since I've been here for the second time, I should be very relaxed, and there's no need for me to just panic in this situation."

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