Mich. State vs. Arizona

How the teams match up

Ncaa Tournament

The Final Four

March 31, 2001

Point guard

* Charlie Bell, Michigan State: Bell is a four-year starter who is in his third Final Four. He is not a flashy player, but he defends well and is among the country's best rebounding guards. Earned third-team All-America honors this season. In the last three NCAA games, he has averaged 16 points, seven rebounds and three assists.

* Jason Gardner, Arizona: Gardner - who came from Big Ten country in Indianapolis - was a coup for Olson. He can score if his team needs him to, as he did by hitting a pair of key treys during the second half of the Illinois game. His shooting from outside stands out as his biggest strength. More of a penetrating point guard than Bell.

* Edge: MSU

Shooting guard

* Jason Richardson, Michigan State: Richardson learned well from his time watching Morris Peterson from the bench last season. The second-team All-American averages 15 points per game for the Spartans, but has struggled throughout the tournament, shooting only 40 percent from the field. Nice open-court player who shoots well from outside.

* Gilbert Arenas, Arizona: The Most Outstanding Player of the Midwest Regional, he scored 18 of his 21 points in the first half of the regional final against Illinois. He also had four steals. Like Maryland's Juan Dixon, he's undersized at 6-3 for a pro shooting guard but has a knack for finding ways to score (16.5 ppg).

* Edge: MSU

Small forward

* David Thomas, Michigan State: The Canadian is not a strong shooter from outside, but is known as a defensive and rebounding specialist. He scored 19 points and had seven rebounds in the Southeast Regional final win over Temple. Oldest player in the Final Four at age 24.

* Richard Jefferson, Arizona: An exciting open-court player who can also lock down the opposing team's top scorer. He hounded Big Ten Player of the Year Frank Williams into a miserable afternoon during the Wildcats' win over Illinois. Don't be surprised if he's responsible for guarding Richardson.

* Edge: Arizona

Power forward

* Andre Hutson, Michigan State: During the tournament, the four-year starter is averaging a near double-double at 14.3 points and 9.8 rebounds per game. He is also shooting 73.3 percent from the field in four games, and 66 percent over his last 18.

* Michael Wright, Arizona: For the first time in his career, the third-team All-American failed to take a shot in the Illinois game. Usually, he's scoring 15.8 points and pulling down 7.9 rebounds per game. He's been a consistent load for opponents since his freshman year.

* Edge: Arizona

Coaches

* Tom Izzo, Michigan State: His teams do the right things. They defend and rebound like crazy. They play well together and the points get distributed pretty evenly. These are marks of a well-drilled team. This is the third Final Four team he's led in three years.

* Lute Olson, Arizona: This is Olson's fifth trip to the Final Four. He took Iowa to the semifinals in 1980, as he did with Arizona in 1988 and 1994 before leading the Wildcats to a national title in 1997. The team has been on a 17-2 run since he returned from taking time off after the death of his wife, Bobbi.

* Edge: MSU

Center

* Aloysius Anagonye, Michigan State: The sophomore banger (below) is considered the enforcer and will team with reserve Zach Randolph to try to beat up on Arizona's Loren Woods. Had 13 points against Fresno State in the second round.

* Loren Woods, Arizona: The former, Wake Forest player is prone to being pushed around, but is a force with his shot-blocking ability. The Wildcats might not be here without Woods' seven blocks against Illinois. He also has enough shooting touch to average 13 points this season. Everything depends on the level of effort he decides to put out.

* Edge: Arizona

Bench

* Michigan State: Randolph (10.8 ppg) and Adam Ballinger come off the bench to wear down the opposing pivots. Marcus Taylor comes in to relieve Bell at point guard and Mike Chapell - a former Duke player - makes a solid contribution when he replaces Thomas and Richardson.

* Arizona: Provides the most help on the front court, where Eugene Edgerson and Luke Walton allow the Wildcats to rest Wright, Woods and Jefferson. On the other hand, Arenas and Gardner are forced to carry the load in the backcourt because there's no one around to really give them a break aside from Lamont Frazier.

* Edge: MSU

Prediction

It's tempting to pick Arizona, a team projected to win the national title when the season began. The safer expectation, however, is that the more consistent Michigan State team will use its depth and diligence to move into its second straight championship game.

-- Christian Ewell

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