Spartans live up to expectations
Posted: Tuesday April 04, 2000 02:31 AM
Northwestern coach Kevin O'Neill is in Indianapolis and analyzes Michigan State's title victory for CNNSI.com
I'm going to take credit for one good prediction in three weeks. I said Michigan State was going to go through Florida's press like Grant took Richmond.
I thought once Mateen Cleaves got started early against the press, we could see he was going to have a great game. He did some little things you expect a great player to do.
You're talking about a guy who could start spelling his name with a "W" instead of an "M" because he's a winner. Cleaves is a guy that finds a way to make things happen. He knocks down shots all night long. Often, he's not able to do that. He did a good job of helping down inside when Florida's inside guys were killing Michigan State.
I'm sure Tom Izzo thought "Lord, help us. We've gone this far and I'm gonna lose Mateen with 16 minutes left." But (Cleaves) thought it, too. He turned over and said "(The ankle's) broken." It wasn't broken, obviously, or he's the toughest cowboy I've ever met.
When you lose a guy like him, you face adversity. What helped them was that they played 13 or 14 games without Mateen Cleaves earlier in the season. I guarantee you Izzo said in the huddle "Don't worry guys, we've been here before without Mateen. We won at North Carolina without Mateen. We can do it again."
Donovan's ruffled rotation
Billy Donovan's substitution pattern changed from the other games of the tournament because Michigan State had control of the game. Billy tried to punch a lot of buttons to change the flow of the game. He wasn't able to do it, they got out of their regular substitution pattern and Michigan State just took over and controlled the whole game.
Donovan didn't call a timeout as the game was getting away. I think everybody has a philosophy and I think Billy was trying to show his young team -- which was probably a little bit jittery at that time -- 'I'm going to stick with you. We don't need a timeout, we'll be fine, we'll hang in there.' Everybody's got a little bit different look at things. Different things, different games. Billy chose not to do it. Michigan State is too dangerous in those situations. They can take a lead and blow it out.
Spartans delighted by Gators' tempo
I was at a couple of Michigan State practices and when they knew they were playing a pressing team -- especially after coming out of that hold-and-grind game against Wisconsin -- they were excited. I think they were tired as a team, but excited to play against that style and really played well against it.
I thought that whole bench thing was overrated. The bottom line is Michigan State is a deep basketball team. Jason Richardson's a McDonald's All-American, Aloysius Anagonye's a McDonald All-American, Mike Chappell's a transfer from Duke. I tell you this right now, the only people sucking wind at the end of the game were the Florida Gators. Michigan State wore them down not just with their bench, but with their starters. They landed the knockout punch, and the bench players came in and cleaned it up.
Izzo's really got it going right now. He's the hardest-working recruiter there is in the country. He's out there all the time. They've got two McDonald's All-Americans coming in. This is not a group that's going to get a lot worse. Now I'd be really surprised if they get back to the championship game because they're losing three guys that really got the program going with Tom's first recruiting class.
The only thing I would caution the Gators about -- and Billy's a smart guy -- is that they can't relax now. They have to go back and work harder. They have to take the mission-type approach that Michigan State took last year after they lost in the Final Four that the championship is their goal. Even if Mike Miller leaves, they're going to be fine. He didn't do much in the Final Four. They're a great team either way. Their inside players are very, very good.