- The Washington Times - Monday, April 3, 2000

INDIANAPOLIS
The game is expected to separate the men from the boys tonight at the RCA Dome.
The Michigan State Spartans start three seniors. The Florida Gators start lots of peach fuzz.
The Gators are barely old enough to watch R-rated flicks. They don't need much to be entertained, only a candy bar and a video arcade.
Billy Donovan, Florida's 34-year-old coach, is young enough to go the extra mile. He traveled to Mitchell, S.D., to land Mike Miller.
"We're going against a team that has tremendous experience, a team that has been in this situation," Donovan says. "It's a hungry basketball team, like we are."
Donovan is a disciple of Rick Pitino. Donovan did not just learn the game of basketball from Pitino. He also learned how to slick his hair back like Pitino. Donovan earned his New York accent the hard way, in Rockville Centre. He is credited with introducing basketball to Gainesville.
Football is the No. 1 sport at Florida. Spring football is the No. 2 sport. The school produces NFL players. It also produced Bob Vila, the home-repair television personality.
Vernon Maxwell played basketball at Florida and look what happened to him. Maxwell is still in recovery, looking for a dumbbell to communicate his feelings to Gary Payton.
The game promises to be appealing unless the players accept the coaching suggestion of PETA's Kim Krier.
"In the making of every basketball are the remnants of beaten, cruelly transported and slaughtered animals," she says. "We encourage every NCAA player to see the ball, be the ball and put themselves in the animal's place."
And don't forget to box out underneath the backboard, either.
Michigan State forward Morris Peterson is a dinosaur by the standards in college basketball today. He is a leading player who is a fifth-year senior. By the fifth year after high school, most gifted players are in their third NBA season.
Peterson and point guard Mateen Cleaves share a special chemistry and a Flint background. They don't hold Flint against one another.
"I love him," Cleaves says.
Michigan State coach Tom Izzo is the ex-linebacker who must prepare his players to go from one extreme to the other, from bump-and-grind Wisconsin to open-throttle Florida.
"You couldn't find two teams that are more opposite," Izzo says. "I'm just happy to be playing."
The Gators could say the same, given their circumstances in the first round of the NCAA tournament. They beat Butler 69-68 in overtime after Miller hit a driving shot in the three-second lane at the buzzer. That shot followed two missed free throw attempts by a Butler player.
"That game was a big wake-up call for us," Miller says.
Wake-up calls are almost as important to teams as staying focused. The Spartans say they received their wake-up call after losing to Duke at the Final Four last season.
"We went back to the hotel [after the Duke game] and set our goals," Izzo says.
The Gators don't sweat the usual stuff, perhaps because 10 players earn significant minutes. Miller, the team's leading scorer, converted only 3 of 13 field goal attempts against North Carolina. No problem. The Florida bench produced 37 points, 35 more than North Carolina's.
"This team is about depth," Miller says. "We have so many different guys who can hurt you."
Florida's depth is said to wear on you unless you're Butler.
"You're going to get tired sooner or later," Florida center Udonis Haslem says.
Haslem took the words right out of Billy Packer's mouth. Packer is usually in charge of fatigue. Coincidentally, he sounds fatigued himself following his spat with two women from Duke.
Michigan State is favored to beat Florida. That means Florida should win. The winning team is not necessarily the better team in the single-elimination format.
Butler is one point and a short drive through the city from the dome.
You could pick a winner.
Flipping a coin works, too.

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