I just discovered that the NCAA has opened a vault of great March Madness games and posted them on YouTube, so right now I'm watching the 2000 Midwest Regional final between MSU and Iowa State. The Cyclones had a heck of a team, with Marcus Fizer, Jamaal Tinsley, Paul Shirley, and Michael Nurse. Fizer, Shirley, and Tinsley played in the NBA, and Nurse was a sharp-shooting guard who, despite not playing professionally after his college career, was an outstanding player.
I'd never seen the game in its entirety until today, because when it was played I had a job that required me to work on Saturday nights, so I and my MSU fan co-workers had to listen to the final minutes in the back room. After finally watching the game, I'm completely convinced it was the best game of MSU's run to the 2000 national title, and Iowa State presented the most formidable challenge the Spartans faced in the tournament. It wouldn't be too outlandish to say that this game was the de facto national championship game.
The final score was 75-64, but that is a highly deceptive score. The Spartans were clinging to a 69-64 lead with just over 30 seconds left when Iowa State coach Larry Eustachy lost his cool after what he perceived as a non-call in MSU's favor and was hit with a double technical foul. The Spartans scored its final six points (four of which were free throws) in that last half-minute of play.
Iowa State, in fact, dominated a good portion of the second half and was probably the only team that entire season to best Michigan State on the glass, outrebounding the Spartans 33-27. What really did the Cyclones in, however, were two primary factors, turnovers and a lack of depth. They had 19 giveaways to Michigan State's 8. And despite having an outstanding starting five, Iowa State only had two players come off the bench and contribute (Paul Shirley and Brandon Hawkins).
If any basketball game deserves to be compared to a heavyweight bout, than this is definitely one of those. Each team took turns delivering haymakers, with the Spartans sneaking in the final knockout blow.