1 Michigan State
Player to Watch
Why is junior Morris Peterson, the nation's best sixth man, still a sixth man? "Versatility," says coach Tom Izzo, who notes that the 6' 6" Peterson can play any position and has even defended point guards such as Ohio State's Scoonie Penn. It was Peterson who was the Spartans' leading scorer (13.7 points per game), not Big Ten co-player of the year Mateen Cleaves.
The Big Ten champions are 25-1 since losing to Connecticut on Dec. 5, not least because point guard Cleaves (11.7 points and 7.1 assists a game) has regained his freewheeling form. Despite not having anyone taller than 6'9" forward A.J. Granger, Michigan State boasts one of the country's best rebound margins (+9.5), which is important given the Spartans' lack of inside scoring and their 34.3% shooting from three-point range.
Coach Tom Izzo
Team scoring 72.3 (FG%: 47.8) (3-pointers: 147-429, 34.3%)
Opponent scoring 59-5 (FG%: 43.0)
Rebound margin +9.5
Team FT% 73.0
Whom not to foul
Thomas Kelley (85%), Morris Peterson (82%)
Whom to foul
Antonio Smith (42%), A.J. Granger (67%)
Ohio State 76-71, Wisconsin 56-51
Cleaves might already be psyched for a Sweet 16 war with Jason Terry. That's where the Spartans' run will end.
16 Mount St. Mary's
Player to Watch
The spotlight shines on talented 6'10" freshman center Melvin Whitaker, who joined the Mountaineers in December after serving 25 months in prison (SI, Feb. 22), but Mount St. Mary's best player is Gregory Harris, a junior guard who quietly finished in the top 10 in the Northeast Conference in scoring (17.2 points per game), assists (4.5), steals (1.9) and free throw percentage (80.0%).