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How they got there: No. 1-seeded Michigan State got only a minor challenge at Cleveland, cruising past Valparaiso, 65-38, then using a 13-4 run in the second half against No. 8 Utah to turn a close game into a 73-61 victory.

No. 2 Iowa State defeated Central Connecticut State, 88-78, and No. 7 Auburn, 79-60, at Minneapolis. The Cyclones defeated Auburn even though the Tigers contained All-American forward Marcus Fizer most of the way.

No. 4 Syracuse is in the Sweet 16 for the second time in three years, barely. The Orangemen, after defeating Samford by 14 in the first round at Cleveland, got past No. 5 Kentucky, 52-50, despite a season-low in points and shooting (31.7%).

No. 6 UCLA used a 15-0 second-half run to distance itself from Ball State en route to a 65-57 victory in the first round at Minneapolis. The Bruins put on a clinic against No. 3 Maryland, 105-70, in the round of 32.

Difference makers: The point guards. Mateen Cleaves took Michigan State by the scruff, as usual, when Utah was keeping pace early in the second half, getting in the face of teammates Morris Peterson and Charlie Bell during a timeout. Jamaal Tinsley took the big shots for Iowa State, and went from shooting liability to making consecutive three-point baskets to open the inside for Fizer and help shake Auburn. Earl Watson of UCLA took apart Maryland, continuing his strong play of the last month. Jason Hart of Syracuse took control for the Orangemen and set up the game-winning shot against Kentucky.

Team updates: Michigan State has not lost in the state of Michigan in the last two seasons and now gets a virtual home game at Auburn Hills, Mich., about an hour from its East Lansing campus. That would be like UCLA playing a regional at the Arrowhead Pond or Staples Center.

Iowa State's 31 victories are the most for a Division I school in the state, surpassing the 30 by Iowa in 1986-87.

Syracuse is 7-5 since its 19-0 start and three of the wins have been by four points or fewer.

UCLA's regular-season schedule looks better with each passing day. The Bruins played four of the other 15 teams still alive in the tournament--Syracuse, Purdue, Gonzaga and North Carolina. That's besides three other teams that won first-round games--Pepperdine, Stanford and Arizona.

How it shakes out: Forget home-court advantage. Michigan State has things that mean more, mainly five starters with Final Four experience, defense and rebounding, especially on the offensive end. Those things will get the Spartans past Syracuse on Thursday and UCLA on Saturday.

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