St. Louis, Mo. - Edward Jones Dome
Saturday, approx. 8:47 p.m., CBS (Jim Nantz, Billy Packer)
"Just looking at highlights, they are a scrappy team, a team that plays extremely hard, they are well-coached. They play with desire." -- Raymond Felton
"I love Paul Davis and we did recruit him, but he committed very early. We recruited Alan Anderson, too. I thought he was sensational and after I visited him there was a story in the paper saying I fixed him the best breakfast he ever had. The next day he committed to Michigan State. I guess my pancakes really weren't that good. I think he has tremendous versatility. He is playing the four this year and played point guard last year. I saw Shannon Brown the summer after his sophomore year and sent one of my assistats to see him and he thought he was great. Then, I went to see him and he really didn't play that well. I went back to see him the next year and he scored 50 points in a high school game and made it look easy. I know their personnel very well." -- Roy Williams
"I think watching them play against Duke, in their last game, I was really impressed with the way they attack the glass. When we were flying back and I was sitting there talking to Marvin, I was like `These guys attack the glass better than anybody in the country.' Their guards attack the glass. Shannon Brown and Maurice Ager go hard to the boards. And that is a big part of the game." -- Sean May
"I don't think any team at this point should be changing what they do best. Yet, I don't want to play into their hands either. We're going to try to run, maybe selectively as far as not forcing the action." -- Tom Izzo
"Raymond Felton stirs the drink, as they say. Felton is the guy that I think is one of our toughest match up problems. He's shooting the ball so much better this year than he had been in the past. He can take you off the dribble with his quickness. He can get into the paint, use his strength, and he makes other people better, so he does create some problems for us. We're going to have to try to guard him with probably more than one person. I don't mean just individually, but I mean probably a player and a half is going to have to contain him just because of his ability to penetrate." -- Tom Izzo
"I know they think [Jawad Williams] is a match up problem because with his size, they have a mismatch on me. But I'm not like a skinny guy. I've got a little bit of strength. I can't overpower him, but I can use the one thing I have, my quickness. I just have to use that to the fullest. I have to beat him to the block, beat him to his position. On the offensive side, I have to bring him off side where it's tougher for him to guard me." -- Alan Anderson
"[Sean May's] definitely one of the best, if not the best post player in the country right now. You know it's weird because the last four games we've really played teams with great big men, so it's not going to be any different. We still have to take it to him before he takes it at us." -- Paul Davis
Season Recap: Few took notice of Michigan State this season. Maybe it was because of the two early losses to Duke and then George Washington. Maybe it was because of the lack of "quality" wins (one victory over a top 25 opponent - Wisconsin). But the Spartans did put together a 13-3 Big Ten record and three of their losses were nailbiters. And most importantly, since falling behind in the first half to Old Dominion, they've been playing as well as head coach Tom Izzo could hope for in the Tournament, including upsets of No. 1-seeded Duke and No. 2-seeded Kentucky.
Center Stage: Center Paul Davis is playing his best basketball at the perfect time. He's recorded three straight double-doubles, all against elite competition (Chuck Hayes, Shelden Williams, Taylor Coppenrath) and is averaging 15.0 points and 10.8 boards in the Tournament. "Paul's about as good as they get," Sean May said. "He can really shoot the basketball from the perimeter, he's got some great post moves, he's really long and an underrated defender. I think he'll try to do some of the same things [to me] he did with Shelden [Williams], maybe try to foul me out and attack me inside."
The Point: Tom Izzo splits the point guard duties between senior Chris Hill and freshman Drew Neitzel. Hill is the better defender (team leader in steals) and more accurate shooter (team-high 60 three-pointers) -- though he's been ice cold during the Tournament, shooting 6.3% (1-16) on three-pointers and 44.4% from the free throw line. Neitzel is now the starter, and though he isn't heavily relied upon for points, he has hit some key shots during the Spartans' run and registered six assists against Vermont.
Wingmen: The Spartans are simply loaded in the wing department, so much so that senior Kelvin Torbert (a former McDonald's All-American) comes off the bench. The four wings -- Alan Anderson, Shannon Brown, Maurice Ager and Torbert -- are all physical, high-fliers and are capable ball handlers (Anderson was the point guard last year) and shooters (Ager is tops at 40.5% on three-pointers). It's their toughness and athleticism that enable the fast tempo, stifling defense and helps overcome the lack of true post players.
Defense Wins ... : Michigan State is arguably the best defensive team -- especially on the perimeter -- left in the Tournament. They forced Duke into 22 turnovers and held Vermont to 31 percent shooting. And they excel at capitalizing on their defense, which is the main reason they are outscoring opponents, 60-16, in fast-break points in the four Tournament games.
The Boards: Despite not having the frontcourt depth to match many opponents, the Spartans are a strong rebounding team. Other than Paul Davis at center, they really have no other true post players in the main rotation. It's a credit to the aforementioned wing players -- who attack the boards with a vengeance -- that they weren't outrebounded by Kentucky or Duke and are +7.3 on the year. "We're going to have to step that rebounding up another notch to compete with North Carolina," Tom Izzo said.
Remember Me?: No one on the Michigan State staff knows the Tar Heel personnel as well as assistant coach Doug Wojcik. After all, he recruited most of them. Wojcik was an assistant under Matt Doherty at UNC for three season from 2000-2003. "He knows them from what they eat before the game to their sleeping patterns," Alan Anderson said.
Familiar Territory: Michigan State is playing in its fourth Final Four in the last seven years, the most by any school in that stretch, while Izzo is the second coach in NCAA history to make four Final Fours in his first 10 years. Izzo and Co. won the national title in 2000.
Background Location: Lansing, Mich. Enrollment: 43,366 Conference: Big Ten Nickname: Spartans Colors: Green & White Head Coach: Tom Izzo Record at MSU: 233-96
Probable Starting Lineup: Drew Neitzel (6-0, 170, G, Fr.) – 3.5 ppg, 2.9 apg Shannon Brown (6-4, 200, G, So.) – 10.8 ppg, 3.2 rpg Maurice Ager (6-5, 195, G, Jr.) – 13.8 ppg, 3.9 rpg Alan Anderson (6-6, 220, F, Sr.) – 13.7 ppg, 5.6 rpg Paul Davis (6-11, 255, C, Jr.) – 12.2 ppg, 7.8 rpg Reserves: Kelvin Torbert (6-4, 215, G, Sr.) – 9.5 ppg, 2.9 rpg Chris Hill (6-3, 190, G, Sr.) – 9.0 ppg, 4.3 apg Matt Trannon (6-6, 217, F, Jr.) – 2.2 ppg, 3.4 rpg Drew Naymick (6-10, 235, C, So.) – 1.6 ppg, 1.9 rpg Tim Bograkos (6-2, 195, G, Sr.) – 1.6 ppg
Davis ... Ager
Brown ... Anderson
Hill ... Neitzel