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Published: 3/25/2008

Michigan State has to get past top-seeded Memphis

ASSOCIATED PRESS

EAST LANSING, Mich. - Shortly into one of his typical late night film sessions, Michigan State coach Tom Izzo figured he'd seen enough. He knew Memphis deserved its No. 1 seed.

The Memphis fast break reminded Izzo of a college version of the Los Angeles Laker attack led by former Michigan State star Magic Johnson.

The Tigers' size on the wings left Izzo puzzling over potential matchups. And the Memphis defense could be a concern for a Michigan State team that is sometimes inconsistent and prone to turnovers.

"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. "Haven't found a lot yet."

Earlier in the month, Izzo and Memphis coach John Calipari happened to talk to each other about their teams.

"He was telling me some issues they were having," Izzo said. "I wish I would have wrote them all down."

Michigan State's reward for making the round of 16 in the South Regional 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 with wins over Temple and Pittsburgh.

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. "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 are led by junior guard Chris Douglas-Roberts (17.3 points) and freshman guard Derrick Rose (14.1).

Izzo has seen enough to know that Memphis poses a major roadblock.

"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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