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Izzo in fourth Final Four with Spartans


March 27, 2005 | ESPN.com's NCAA Tournament coverage

The Big Ten has two teams in the Final Four for the first time since 2000, and Michigan State coach Tom Izzo hopes history repeats itself. That season, Michigan State and Wisconsin made it to Indianapolis, and the Spartans cut down the nets after beating Florida.

Tom Izzo
Tom Izzo
This time around, No. 5-seed Michigan State and No. 1-seed (and top-ranked) Illinois represent the Big Ten. A lot has been written and said about Illinois this season. Izzo's team, meanwhile, fought hard to get to St. Louis. Don't forget, this team lost to Iowa in the Big Ten quarterfinals, but then rebounded in the NCAA Tournament by beating Old Dominion, Vermont, Duke and Kentucky.

Think about it, beating both Duke and Kentucky, two of college basketball's top five winning programs, to make it to the Final Four!

What impresses me most about the Spartans is their athleticism. They can run the floor, pound the glass and compete with anyone. They also have tremendous depth, which was certainly a factor against Duke. It also could be important against a gifted team such as North Carolina, Michigan State's opponent in a national semifinal Saturday.

Sophomore guard Shannon Brown scored a career-high 24 points against Kentucky on Sunday, and now he gets to go to the Final Four, where his high school teammate, Illinois junior guard Dee Brown, is also competing.

Junior center Paul Davis can challenge UNC big man Sean May inside. Remember how well Davis played against Duke's Shelden Williams. This should be quite an inside showdown.

Michigan State also has the veteran experience of seniors Alan Anderson, Chris Hill and Kelvin Torbert. Anderson has been a factor in the tournament, while Hill has to regain confidence in his jump shot.

Izzo is in his fourth Final Four in his eighth NCAA trip, and he led the Spartans to the 2000 title. In 1999 and 2001, they lost in the national semis .

Welcome back to the Final Four, Tom!

Dick Vitale coached the Pistons and the University of Detroit before broadcasting ESPN's first college basketball game in 1979. Send a question to Vitale for possible use on ESPNEWS.

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