Amaker and Harvard stand in way of Sweet 16
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SPOKANE, Wash. — It's been a while since it happened, but tomorrow's matchup will be a familiar one.
Head coach Tom Izzo will be going up against former Michigan head coach Tommy Amaker, who has led Harvard to the third round in the NCAA Tournament for the second straight year.
The winner of the showdown will advance to the Sweet 16 in New York City, which could be Harvard's first trip to the fourth round in program history. If Izzo and his Spartans win, they will be heading to their sixth Sweet 16 in seven seasons.
Although MSU went 7-3 against Amaker before he was fired in 2007, Izzo said Harvard is fortunate to have "a great coach."
"I think Harvard's lucky to have him because I know people are beating on his door," Izzo said at Friday's press conference.
While the two have experience coaching against each other, Amaker doesn't consider it an advantage in the slightest bit while preparing for the Spartans.
"They're outstanding -- let's not kid ourselves," Amaker said. "They're incredibly balanced. I think that they're playing their best right now."
Harvard is balanced too, as all five starters average at least 10 points per game. Like MSU, Harvard is an experienced bunch, starting two juniors and two seniors, with junior guard Wesley Saunders leading the offense at 12 points per game.
Saunders also is known as Harvard's best defender, and he proved that on Thursday, holding Cincinnati star guard Sean Kilpatrick to 6-of-13 shooting.
Perhaps the largest difference between Cincinnati and MSU's offense is where the points come from. Kilpatrick is the Wildcat's main offensive weapon, whereas MSU has a variety of weapons in its offensive arsenal.
Harvard senior guard Brandyn Curry said instead of zeroing in on MSU's offense, they have to focus on themselves in order to keep the Spartans' scoring to a minimum.
"We will definitely try to focus more on handling us," Curry said. "We feel if as long as we play well and are happy with how we play ... it will most likely favor us."
One player they will be happy shutting down is the man who grabbed nearly every headline yesterday — senior forward Adreian Payne. Coming off of an MSU NCAA Tournament record of 41 points, Payne said he doesn't need to put on another dominating performance for his team to advance to the Sweet 16.
"We have a lot of scorers, a lot of players that can create for others and that's what they did (against Delaware)," Payne said. "And no, I don't feel like it's any pressure that I have to come out and score 40 every game."