Sweet Sixteen Preview-Michigan State

By: Associated Press
By: Associated Press

EAST LANSING, Mich. (AP) -- Shortly into one of his typical late night film sessions, Michigan State coach Tom Izzo figured he'd seen enough to know Memphis deserved its No. 1 seed in the NCAA tournament's South Region.
The Memphis fast break reminded Izzo of a collegiate version of the Los Angeles Laker attack led by former Michigan State star Magic Johnson.
The Tigers' size on the wings had Izzo puzzling over potential matchup problems. And the Memphis defense could be a concern for a Michigan State team that sometimes can be inconsistent and turnover prone on offense.
"As you watch more film and more film, like everybody would do on everybody, you try to find warts that you can exploit," Izzo said Monday. "Haven't found a lot yet."
The ironic part? Izzo and Memphis coach John Calipari talked in early March about the state of their respective teams.
"I just talked to John about 2 1/2 weeks ago, not thinking we'd play," Izzo said. "He was telling me some issues they were having. I wish I would have wrote them all down."
Michigan State's reward for making the round of 16 in the NCAA tournament is a date with top-seeded Memphis (35-1) on Friday in Houston. The winner plays the survivor of Texas-Stanford on Sunday.
The fifth-seeded Spartans (27-8) are in the round of 16 for the seventh time in the last 11 years. Izzo is trying to get to his fifth Final Four.
Michigan State advanced to the round of 16 with wins over 12th seed Temple and fourth-seeded Pittsburgh last week.
Michigan State's backcourt of senior Drew Neitzel and freshman Kalin Lucas were key against the Panthers. Lucas broke down the Pitt defense with his quickness and penetration to score 19 points, and Neitzel capitalized by hitting from the outside to score 21 in the 65-54 victory.
But perhaps the most consistent weapon the Spartans have is defense. Pitt shot just 32.7 percent against the Spartans, while Temple shot 37.5 percent.
Calipari said part of Izzo's success in March is the style of play.
"They're always really, really good defensively," Calipari said of the Spartans. "They're always one of the best rebounding teams in the country. They play you around the basket. You're not getting any easy baskets. They really body up as well as anybody else. They play a grind-it-out game offensively, and they're used to every possession matters for them because you're not going to have a lot."
Calipari said his team can grind it out when needed as evidenced by its 77-74 win over Mississippi State in the second round Sunday. Memphis may be better known for its high scoring offense, but its defense has held opponents to 38.5 percent shooting this season.
The Tigers have won nine straight since their only loss of the season, 66-62 to Tennessee on Feb. 23.
The Tigers are led by junior guard and Detroit native Chris Douglas-Roberts (17.3 points per game) and freshman guard Derrick Rose (14.1 points per game).
Izzo recruited Douglas-Roberts, whom he credits for working hard to become an outstanding performer.
The Tigers don't have many weaknesses, but one of them is clearly free throw shooting. Memphis is shooting 59.2 percent from the line this season, including just 15 of 32 against Mississippi State.
There isn't much of a track record to compare the two schools. Memphis won the only previous meeting back in 1967.
The Tigers and Spartans had no common opponents this season. But Izzo has seen enough to know that Memphis is a major roadblock to his team's chances of advancement.
"At the same time, I've said for a month we've been playing better basketball...," Izzo said. "I told our team at the beginning of the year, if you can get to a Sweet 16, from there on, who knows what happens."


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