Michigan State Spartans
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REGION: West SEED: 8
COACH: Joanne McCallie CONFERENCE: Big Ten
Road to the Final Four ...................................................................................
The Spartans are tremendous rebounders, and that's because they simply outwork you on the glass. Fearless sophomore Lindsay Bowen gets things done on the perimeter and at the free-throw line, but sometimes all you see is 6-foot-4 center Kelli Roehig. She's a huge target in the paint, and if you can't hit No. 42 in the numbers, you need Lasik surgery. Roehig also sets monster screens and does a nice job making the extra pass, taking the ball from side to side.
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Pick a line on the court and there's a good chance Bowen can hit a bucket from it. The 5-foot-7 sophomore guard ranked third in the Big Ten in free-throw percentage (84.9), fourth in 3-point field goals made per game (2.07) and fifth in 3-point percentage (.389). League coaches voted Bowen onto the All-Big Ten second team after she led the Spartans in scoring (12.9 points) and ranked second on the team in assists (2.3) in the regular season. Bowen has hit 63 3-pointers this season, which ranks fourth on the Michigan State single-season charts, and her 140 career 3-pointers ranks fourth all-time. Last year's co-Big Ten Freshman of the Year, Bowen has led the Spartans in scoring in 16 games this season, tallying double figures in 20 contests.
ANALYSIS BY ESPN'S STACEY DALES-SCHUMAN
Last season, Joanne McCallie coached an injury-depleted team to a 17-12 mark and its first NCAA Tournament bid since 1997. With a healthy squad that was impressive in the Big Ten, especially on the road, Michigan State is a team that could uses its size and strength to win games in postseason play.
What is most promising for McCallie and crew is the way in which they have performed in hostile territory. The team has been victorious on nine different occasions this season on the road, with three of the losses coming by a total of just seven points. This away record is the best since the 1990-91 season and speaks volumes to the overall toughness of this year's squad.
The Spartans have also done a number defensively. With excellent full-court pressure, fundamental trapping technique, and sound help principles, Michigan State has been consistently rated in the top 15 of women's hoops, holding foes to fewer than 55 points. One might attribute this course of action to injury-free bodies and increased athleticism.
Besides defense, Michigan State also does a deliberate job on the glass. As a result, they Spartans enjoyed more second-chance scoring than ever before.
The big inside/outside punch for McCallie's team stems from sophomore post Liz Shimek and sophomore perimeter Lindsay Bowen. A player with strong fundamentals and unlimited range, Bowen leads the team with almost 13 points while Shimek drops in 11.
Although Michigan State doesn't feature a flashy superstar standout, the Spartans do have a hard-nosed team that wins by doing the dirty work. Even their junior point guard, Kristin Haynie, who dishes out four assists per game, is built with a smooth toughness that depicts Spartan basketball.
Despite returning four starters from last season's team, Michigan State is still relatively young with five rookies, two sophomores, three juniors and just two seniors. With little NCAA Tournament experience, it will be interesting to see just how far this Spartan squad can reach. What they have going for them is an air of toughness as indicated by their ability to compete on the road. This alone could be the difference for them in the postseason.