Monday, April 03, 2000

NCAA NOTEBOOK


Spartans want to do Fab Five one better: Win it all

BY MIKE DeCOURCY
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        INDIANAPOLIS — There was a time when the shadow of Michigan basketball was so immense that when Michigan State finally broke through with a win against its greatest rival in February 1998, the Spartans celebrated as though they won the national title.

        This was the case even though the Spartans won the Big Ten Conference that year and Michigan was near the bottom of the league.

        MSU now has a five-game winning streak in the series.

        “Everybody looked up to the Fab Five and wanted to wear the long shorts,” said Spartans guard Charlie Bell. “They were the team that was always on TV. But I think the tide is turning.

        “I think if we win the national championship, “it will give us a leg up on the Fab Five.”

        Although Michigan's 1992 and 1993 teams featuring Chris Webber and Jalen Rose made the championship game, they both lost.

        MILLER TIME: Florida sophomore forward Mike Miller, considered one of the top pro prospects in college basketball, said he will consider turning professional at the end of the season but is not ready to make that decision now.

        “To say I'm not going to think about it,” Miller said, “I'd be lying right in front of you.”

        Miller expressed a strong belief in the value of college and college basketball and said any player who would have the opportunity to play at this level and choose instead to play in a minor-league would be foolish.

        “I would say I learned more as a person than as a player my first year, and more as a player this year,” Miller said. “To jump out of high school to go play in a minor league? That would be absurd to me. You're going to go to a league that's probably below college. If you have the grades and you can go to school without going insane, go to school.”

        FLINT STINT: There was a lot of talk Sunday about Michigan State's three players from Flint, Mich.: Mateen Cleaves, Charlie Bell and Mor ris Peterson, nicknamed the Flintstones.

        “They make a big deal out of those guys from Flint,” said Florida guard Teddy Dupay. “I lived in Flint for six years, up until the third grade. Welsh Boulevard — ask them, they'll know where that is. My point is, it doesn't matter where you come from or how old you are. The game is played between the lines.”

        FLICK PICK: Dupay also had his say about the movies coach Billy Donovan has been showing his team for motivational purposes. Before the Final Four win over North Carolina, it was “Rudy.” A week ago, he showed the Gators the Ali-Foreman fight.

        Dupay suggests this time the freshman- and sophomore-dominated team watch “Home Alone”: “A young kid defending his house,” Dupay said.

        DOME QUESTION: It happens every year at the Final Four, no matter how many years in a row they are played in domed stadiums and how many different levels of the tournament are played in domes and how many regular-season games are played in domes. A team or two shoots poorly, and somebody blames it on playing basketball in a dome.

        The question came early to Michigan State coach Tom Izzo Sunday, after his Spartans hit just 16-of-46 from the floor against Wisconsin in the first semifinal. LSU shot 17-of-47 against the Badgers in the most ideal basketball arena, The Pit in Albuquerque, but perhaps the reporter asking the question forgot. It was 10 whole days ago.

        “I think it was due more to, you know, you get to the tournament and like everybody and every sport, we've always said defense wins championships,” Izzo said. “I think all the defense has picked up some.”

        And this is the Final Four, so pressure has to be a factor. “Sometimes, when you get in the big games, you get excited,” said MSU wing Morris Peterson. “Your adrenaline starts pumping. I think it's a matter of feeling comfortable.”

        NUMBERS GAME: If Florida is able to win the title, it will be the least amount of time to pass between a school's football and basketball teams winning national championship. Ohio State won the football championship in 1954 and the NCAA Tournament in 1960.

        • Michigan State is the third Big Ten team to play in the title game in the past 10 years, and the first since 1993. The Southeastern Conference has had five teams in the title game in the past six years and won three of the past six titles.

        • The past two championships were won by coaches making their first Final Four appearance, which is Billy Donovan's circumstance. Before that, it happened only once in eight years.

        • Florida is the first No. 5 seed ever to advance to the championship game. The best previous finish for a No. 5 was Mississippi State's Final Four trip in 1996.

Associated Press Final Four Coverage



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