GAINESVILLE, Fla. — There aren’t many college basketball programs Mike White has more respect for than Michigan State. The Spartans, in their 24th season under Hall-of-Fame coach Tom Izzo, are an annual powerhouse in the Big Ten Conference and always a threat come NCAA Tournament time. Always talented, always physical and one of the toughest teams in the country year in and out. 

Those 21 straight NCAA appearances, 12 Sweet 16s, nine Elite Eights, seven Final Fours and one national title (over the Gators in 2000, no less) during Izzo’s 24 seasons are pretty solid testaments. 

“I’ve always admired their level of discipline and toughness,” White said. 

He was not an all-star caliber basketball player during his days as a starting point guard at Ole Miss, but White would fight every minute on the floor. That’s the kind of program he wants for the University of Florida as well, but toughness has not been a constant for the Gators this season. It’s shown up in spurts, but no team can’t be part-time tough and beat ones who exhibit that intangible each game. 

If UF (5-3) doesn’t have that mentality when it shows up for Saturday’s high-noon, nationally televised showdown against 10th-ranked Michigan State (7-2) it’ll

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