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What To Look For

March 20, 2001|ROBYN NORWOOD

* How they got here: Defending national champion Michigan State returned to the Sweet 16 with ease, beating Alabama State by 34 points and Fresno State by 16. The bracket around the Spartans dissolved, with no team seeded higher than No. 7 Penn State joining them.

The Nittany Lions won with defense, putting the clamps on Joseph Forte and helping force 22 turnovers in a second-round upset of North Carolina. Penn State beat Providence in its opening game.

Temple also won with defense, beating Texas in the first round, then ending Florida's hopes of returning to the Final Four with a smothering matchup zone and a controlled pace.

That leaves Gonzaga, still standing after two games for the third consecutive year. Only Duke and Michigan State can say the same.

* Difference makers: Gonzaga's run figures to end against Michigan State, but there aren't many bigger difference-makers than the Bulldogs' Dan Dickau. Gonzaga is 21-2 with him in the lineup. Another pair to watch: Temple's Lynn Greer and Quincy Wadley. For Penn State, it's not JoePa all eyes are on, but guard Joe Crispin, whose twin brother Jon is the point guard. For Michigan State, senior guard Charlie Bell does everything asked of him.

* Team tidbits: Michigan State has a fair shot at becoming the second NCAA champion to repeat since the UCLA era: Duke did it in 1991 and '92. Penn State has reached the Final Four only once, in 1954. Cincinnati has won two national championships, in 1961 and '62, on the heels of the Oscar Robertson era. Temple's John Chaney, 69, is a sentimental favorite to reach the Final Four for the first time. Gonzaga? If the Bulldogs do it, it's time for the Pac-10 to annex them.

* How it shakes out: Michigan State has too much brawn and rebounding ability for Gonzaga. The Spartans' defense puts them in a regional final against the winner of the Pennsylvania state championship--probably Temple, which is tough enough to upset Penn State. In an all-Big Ten regional final, pick Michigan State, which has beaten the Nittany Lions two out of three times this season.

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