No. 1 Mich. State (29-4) vs. No. 16 Mount St. Mary's (15-14)
What: First round, NCAA Midwest Regional
When: Tonight, 7: 55
TV: Chs. 13, 9
How they got here: Michigan State won the Big Ten regular-season title and postseason tournament. Mount St. Mary's finished sixth in the Northeast Conference in the regular season, but advanced by winning the conference tournament.
Conference records: Michigan State was 15-1 in the Big Ten; Mount St. Mary's was 10-10 in the Northeast Conference.
Rankings: Michigan State is ranked No. 2.
Coaches: Tom Izzo is 83-40 in his fourth season. Jim Phelan has 800 wins and 442 losses over 45 seasons.
NCAA tournament records: Michigan State is 19-12 in 12 tournament appearances, losing to North Carolina last season in the Sweet 16. The Spartans won the national championship in 1979, but also reached the Final Four in 1957, as well as national quarterfinal games in 1959 and 1988. Mount St. Mary's whiffed against Kentucky in its only NCAA appearance, in 1995.
Key matchups: Michigan State guards Charlie Bell and Mateen Cleaves will be the two Spartans in charge of containing Mount St. Mary's Gregory Harris, the Mount's most consistent scoring threat. Though the Mountaineers have two others averaging in double figures -- Tony Hayden and Melvin Whitaker -- a good defensive job on Harris eliminates the only player with the ability to create his own shots.
What Michigan State has to do to win: If Michigan State does what it's done all season -- shoot the ball well (47.7 field goal percentage) and rebound (9.6 rebounding margin advantage) -- it should be fine. In particular, the Spartans need to shoot well outside in order to quell Whitaker's defensive presence inside.
What Mount St. Mary's has to do to win: The Mountaineers must rebound better than they did during the regular season -- when they were among the NEC's worst at rebounding (out-rebounded 39.2-34.0) -- against a Michigan State team that owns the boards. The Mount also must continue to defend like it did in holding opponents to 34 percent shooting during the NEC tournament.
Bottom line: If there's a conference accustomed to falling short in the NCAA tournament, it is the Big Ten. Unfortunately for Mount St. Mary's, Michigan State won't fall short enough to drop a first-round game. There are worse ways for Jim Phelan to end the season than with 800 wins.
Pub Date: 3/12/99