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USC-Michigan State matchup boils down to depth

Michigan State has more of it with which to combat the Trojans in Sunday's second-round Midwest Regional game.

March 22, 2009|Chris Dufresne

MINNEAPOLIS — USC and Michigan State have had similar, disjointed, wildly inconsistent and successful seasons -- if that makes court sense.

Both schools were hammered by early injuries. USC fought through ankle injuries to Marcus Simmons and Leonard Washington and Marcus Johnson's bad shoulder.

Raymar Morgan, Michigan State's standout forward, was leveled by walking pneumonia. Center Goran Suton, who had 17 rebounds in the Spartans' first-round win over Robert Morris on Friday night, christened the season by having his knee scoped.

Both teams are athletic, preach rebounding and love to fastbreak.

The difference is that Michigan State has a better minutes plan.

The Spartans' depth -- and it is quality depth -- could be the difference against USC in today's second-round Midwest Regional matchup at the Metrodome.

Michigan State doesn't list five probable starters, it lists eight possible starters. Ten players average 9.3 minutes or more per game. Spartans reserves scored 33 points in the win over Robert Morris. For USC, Washington's two points were the only points scored outside the starting five against Boston College.

USC Coach Tim Floyd asks his main attractions to be marathon men. Starters DeMar DeRozan, Dwight Lewis and Daniel Hackett each played 40 minutes against Boston College. Taj Gibson played 36. Simmons was limited to 17 because of foul trouble.

"You tell yourself you're not tired, so you're not tired," DeRozan said Saturday.

Playing fewer players exposes USC to foul trouble, and that might be a bigger issue than fatigue.

"The only problem in the NCAA tournament, as we know, the one-minute timeouts go to, you know, a day, two days," Spartans Coach Tom Izzo joked.

OK, they're not that long, but timeouts are extended in the tournament in part to help CBS recoup the $6 billion it pays the NCAA to exclusively cover the event.

"You have a chance to catch your breath, have a drink of water, relax, then go back out there," DeRozan said.

Michigan State senior guard Travis Walton said he doesn't think, at this stage of the season, that fatigue will be a factor with USC.

"I am pretty sure this game is not going to be won because we tire them out and stuff like that," Walton said. "It is going to be the team that can defend, can do those types of things. This time of the season you kind of put all your tiredness and your aches and pains behind you."

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chris.dufresne@latimes.com

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