Originally created 04/03/00

Different styles, one goal



INDIANAPOLIS -- Michigan State and Florida both started the season in the Top 10 and never dropped far below. Now they're the only teams left.

Similarities over.

While the Spartans are most effective in a half-court game, where they can crash the boards and be physical, the Gators prefer to play at warp speed, using a 10-man rotation and full-court pressure.

Michigan State (31-7) was the only No. 1 seed to reach the Final Four and has lived up to the role in its bid for the national championship. The Spartans won every game in the NCAA tournament by at least 11 points, including Saturday night's 53-41 victory over Wisconsin.

Florida, seeded fifth, got a first-round scare from Butler before wearing down higher-seeded teams -- Illinois, top-ranked Duke and Oklahoma State -- with its hectic pace. The Gators (29-7) used the same style to end North Carolina's surprising run with a 71-59 win Saturday night.

"We like to run, too," Michigan State coach Tom Izzo said. "Maybe some of that is our style also. ... I think we have an understanding for that. I think these guys want to run, too."

The Spartans can get up and down the court, having scored more than 80 points nine times this season. In the tournament, however, they have averaged 68.2 with the five starters averaging between 27 and 35 minutes a game and only two reserves averaging more than 10.

Florida has averaged 79.4 points in the five tournament games, just off its 84.1 mark for the season. The 10 Gators who create all that havoc on the floor average between 13 and 31 minutes a game.

Michigan State starts three seniors, while Florida has one on the team and plays seven sophomores and freshmen in the rotation.

"Our youthfulness has won us a lot of basketball games this year," said Kenyan Weaks, Florida's lone member of the Class of 2000. "I don't know if that's going to be a big problem in this game."

The Spartans were going to use an age-old method to prepare for Florida's full-court press Monday night.

"We always go against six or seven guys in practice and I'm sure we'll have a bunch of players out there today," Michigan State forward Andre Hutson said Sunday.

Florida coach Billy Donovan believes people are getting the wrong impression about his team.

"People think it's just running and jacking up 3-point shots," Donovan said. "We put a tremendous emphasis on guarding the 3-point line. Basically, every team in the country, when they go to practice, is going to practice their half-court offense. We try to be as disruptive as possible and take teams out of what they practice on a regular basis."

One of the keys to breaking Florida's press will be senior point guard Mateen Cleaves.

"You never have a chance to relax," he said.

"The main thing for the game is you can't change your attitude."

Florida's subs have scored 175 points in the tournament, 132 more than Michigan State's.

"I do think we need to get more scoring out of our bench and I think we have the potential," Izzo said. "As far as wearing us down, I think we'll utilize our bench enough so it doesn't."

Donovan won't change a thing.

"We're going to play our guys like we normally have and I don't know if we'll be able to wear Michigan State down," he said. "We have to just try and play our style."

Michigan State is trying to become the first Big Ten team to win the national championship since Michigan in 1989. The Spartans' only national championship came in 1979 when Magic Johnson led them to the title as a sophomore.

The Spartans are in the Final Four for the second straight year. They lost to Duke in the semifinals last season.

"That was cool but we went home empty-handed," Cleaves said. "It's great to get here but you'll always be remembered as a national champion."

Florida is looking for its first national championship while keeping alive the Southeastern Conference's even-year streak. Arkansas won in 1994 and Kentucky won in 1996 and 1998.

Donovan, one of six men to play and coach in a Final Four, will try to join even more select company.

Only Bob Knight and Dean Smith have played in a Final Four and coached a national champion. At 34, Donovan would be the third-youngest coach to win it all behind Indiana's Branch McCracken in 1940 and Wisconsin's Harold Foster in 1941.

"I haven't focused on the fact we're 40 minutes from a national championship," Donovan said. "Probably more that we're playing Michigan State and what we have to do to beat them."