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Greatest College Basketball Teams:  Spotlight 2000 Michigan State

The 2000 Michigan State Spartans basketball team went 32-7 and won the NCAA Championship.  The 2000 season was in the third year of four consecutive Big Ten Championships and the second of three consecutive Final Four appearances for the Spartans.  Coached by Tom Izzo, the Spartans won with an incredibly tough defense.  For the season, the Spartans outscored opponents 74.1 to 58.9 per game and outshot opponents 47.4 percent to 39.4 percent from the field.   Only twice during the 2000 season did an opponent score more than 80 points on the Spartans; both games were losses.  The Spartans managed to hold opponents under 50 points an amazing eight times.

The Spartans were led by three seniors:  point guard Mateen Cleaves, small forward Morris Peterson and power forward A.J. Granger.

Cleaves averaged 12.1 points and 6.9 assists per game for the 2000 Spartans.  He was named team captain and was named an All-American for the third consecutive year in 2000.  Cleaves holds the Michigan State records for the most assists in a game (20 versus Michigan in his final home game in 2000), in a season (274 in 1999) and in a career (816).  Cleaves is also Michigan State's career leader in steals with 195. 
Cleaves' toughness made him a favorite of coach Tom Izzo.  Izzo's son's middle name is Mateen.

Cleaves was the 14th pick in the first round of the 2000 NBA draft.  Cleaves has not had much success at the NBA level.

Peterson averaged 16.8 points and 6 rebounds per game for the 2000 Spartans.  Peterson was a great three point shooter, knocking down 85 of 200 in 2000.  Peterson was named Big Ten Player of the Year and in some polls an All-American in 2000.  He was the 21st pick in the first round of the 2000 NBA draft and has averaged 11.5 points per game so far in his NBA career.  

A.J. Granger was a 6'9' power forward that could score inside or outside.  Granger averaged 9.5 points and 5.3 rebounds per game in 2000.  He hit 49 of 109 shots from three point range.  After losing to Michigan State in the NCAA Championship game, Florida coach called Granger 'the X factor' because of his ability to hit the outside shot. 

Junior Guard Charlie Bell was from Flint, Michigan.  Cleaves and Peterson also grew up in Flint.  The three were frequently called the 'Flintstones.'  Although the least well known of the three Flintstones, Bell averaged 11.5 points, 4.9 rebounds and 3.2 assists for the Spartans in 2000.  Bell wasn't drafted, but after a stint in Italy and Spain, he came back to the NBA in 2006 and has averaged 9.8 points per game. 

The fifth starter was junior center Andre Hutson.  Hutson averaged 10.2 points and 6.2 rebounds for the 2000 Spartans.  After college, Hutson has had a productive career as a player in Europe.

The Spartans started the 2000 season ranked third in the nation.  Star point guard Mateen Cleaves was out with a broken ankle for the first 13 games of the season.  The loss of Cleaves didn't matter in the first game of the season.  Michigan State's defense smothered Toledo in a 78-33 victory.  The Spartans lost four of the next 12 games, however, and their ranking fell from third to 11th. 

Cleaves returned in time for the start of the Big Ten season.  Michigan State went 13-3 in the Big Ten regular season and swept through the Big Ten Tournament beating Iowa 75-65, Wisconsin 55-46 and Illinois 76-61 to win the Big Ten Championship.

In the first round of the NCAA Tournament, Michigan State's defense held Valparaiso to 25 percent shooting and the Spartan's won easily, 65-38.  In the second round against Utah, Michigan State was trailing 35-32 at the half, but Cleaves scored 21 points and the Spartans won 73-61. 

The NCAA Tournament regionals were played in Auburn Hills, Michigan.  Michigan State met 16th ranked Syracuse in the first game and struggled.  Syracuse led 34-24 at the half.  The Spartans went on a 37-9 run and came back and won75-58.  In the regional finals, Michigan State faced sixth ranked Iowa State.  Michigan State led at the half by three, but Iowa State came back and took a nine point lead with just under six minutes to go.  For the third game in a row, Michigan State rallied, outscoring Iowa State 23-5 and winning the game 75-64.

In the Final Four, Michigan State faced Wisconsin for the fourth time of the season.  In a defensive struggle, Michigan State beat Wisconsin 53-41.  Peterson led the Spartans with 20 points and 7 rebounds.  Hutson had 10 points and 10 rebounds.

In the NCAA Championship, Michigan State faced Florida.  Cleaves and Bell had no problem breaking the Florida press and Michigan State led 43-32 at the half.  Florida cut the lead to 50-44 with about 16 minutes to go in the game.  Then Cleaves injured his ankle and had to go to the locker room.  As he was receiving medical attention, Cleaves claimed only one thought was going through his mind, 'They were going to have to amputate my leg to keep me out.'

Meanwhile, A.J. Granger said the rest of the team huddled on the court.  'We looked at each other and said, 'Let's do it!'' 

'For half the year I ran the team when Mateen was injured,' Charlie Bell said after the game. 'We had adversity all year and tonight was no different.  We are a team, and that's why we're still standing.

Cleaves hobbled back out onto the court with just under 12 minutes remaining.  Peterson finished with 21 points, Granger with 19 points and 9 rebounds and Cleaves with 18 points.  Charlie Bell had nine points, eight rebounds and five assists.  All four were named to the All-Tournament team.  Cleaves was named the Most Outstanding Player of the Tournament.  ''It just seems like somebody on this team steps up every night,'' Granger said. 

Name              Pos Class  Pts  Reb  Ast
Morris Peterson    F    SR  16.8  6.0  1.3
Mateen Cleaves     G    SR  12.1  1.8  6.9
Charlie Bell       G    JR  11.5  4.9  3.2
Andre Hutson       C    JR  10.2  6.2  1.5
A.J. Granger       G    SR   9.5  5.3  1.2
Mike Chappell      G    JR   5.9  2.2  0.6
Jason Richardson  G/F   FR   5.1  4.1  0.6
Al Anagonye       F/C   FR   2.9  3.0  0.3
David Thomas      G/F   JR   2.4  2.4  1.5
Adam Ballinger     F    FR   2.0  1.7  0.3

How would the 2000 Michigan State Spartans do against the greatest teams of all time? 

The 2000 Michigan State team was a team that played great defense and shot the three pointer well.  Their biggest strength was their experience, toughness and ability to overcome adversity.  Again and again, the Spartans came from behind to win.  Tom Izzo is an excellent coach and it is a testament to his ability that a team with as little talent as the Spartans was able to win the Big Ten Championship four years in a row and go to the NCAA Final Four three years in a row.  Although the 2000 Spartans' success on the court earns them a spot on the list of greatest college basketball teams, this team simply doesn't have the talent to compete with the best teams of all time.

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