Tempo Figures to Be One Pressing Issue

How best to prepare for Florida's fierce full-court press?

Try practicing five-on-seven, a trick Michigan State has used all season.

"In practice, we always try to make it harder than it's going to be in the game," guard Charlie Bell said.

The Florida press isn't the typical go-for-broke scheme content to give up layups in exchange for steals and an up-tempo game.

"I've been really impressed," Michigan State Coach Tom Izzo said. "Sometimes presses are really mad-dog presses. What I mean by that is they're helter-skelter, people are all over. This to me is a more disciplined press where they come at you but they don't just give up a million things either."

With so much focus on the press, Florida Coach Billy Donovan hinted he might pull a surprise.

"We might not press Michigan State to start the game," he said. "A lot will depend on the way we break the game down."

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Michigan State's renowned "Flintstones" are Mateen Cleaves, Morris Peterson and Bell, all from Flint, Mich.

Cleaves and Peterson, roommates and boyhood friends, still remember their first encounters.

"I walked in the gym and saw a short, stubby guy pushing the ball upcourt, making amazing plays," Peterson said.

"I remember thinking, 'Who is this guy here?' "

Cleaves remembers too.

"I kept hearing about this guy on the other side of town, Morris Peterson," Cleaves said.

"He was 9 or 10 years old, shooting college three-pointers, this long slim guy.

"We went at each other like it was Larry Bird and Magic Johnson back then."

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Florida center Udonis Haslem never has known anyone who shares his first name.

"It's pretty nice being the only one," he said. "My grandmother gave me that name. I've been called everything from A to Z. Things that don't even have a 'U' in it."

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The Times' Mal Florence will be inducted into the U.S. Basketball Writers Association hall of fame today along with Mary Garber of the Winston-Salem (N.C.) Journal and John Feinstein of the Washington Post.

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