November 28, 2012
Borton's Blog: U-M is 'legitimate'
North Carolina State coach Mark Gottfried managed to find about a dozen creative ways to tactfully point out his team got ravaged by the referees Tuesday night, while mentioning them only to say he wasn't criticizing them. But he said more, and it's worth hearing.
Yes, Gottfried wasn't happy about Michigan's advantage at the free throw line, in his team's 79-72 Big Ten/ACC Challenge loss at Crisler Center. The Wolverines went 16-for-20 there, while a quick, athletic crew on the visitor's side shot 6-for-9.
Gottfried and flamboyant official Teddy Valentine - who minds being part of the show like corpulent men mind pizza - provided their own sidebar down the stretch. The coach tore into Valentine from afar, then Valentine drew near, getting his ear into the Wolfpack coaches' personal space as if to say
Could you repeat that? I'd like to hear it again, because it might liven things up if you desperately desire the T. Go ahead
make my day.
In the end, Gottfried bit his tongue - but not when it came to Michigan. In short, he's impressed.
"They're a legitimate top-three team, top-five team in the country," he said.
Now, most coaches are going to shine up the opposition when they've just dropped one on the big stage. But the Wolfpack coach supplied enough specifics to make it more than a soft landing after a road loss.
"Michigan is going to be a hard team to beat, all year long, because of the way they shoot the basketball," Gottfried said. "They stretch the floor out. They utilize the ball screen really well in the middle of the floor.
"You've got a number of players who can step up and score the basketball. They're a very well coached team. I think they're legitimate - no doubt in my mind."
Michigan has been looking for legitimate in basketball for a long time now. The Wolverines weren't regarded by some as legitimate even last year, when they were on their way to a Big Ten championship.
They featured "guys somebody found at the local YMCA," captain Zack Novak self-deprecatingly quipped.
They're not saying that this year, not with sophomore point guard Trey Burke coming off Big Ten Freshman of the Year honors. Not with junior guard Tim Hardaway, Jr. demonstrating nice advancement in ball handling and rebounding.
Not with two freshmen - guard Nik Stauskas and forward Glenn Robinson III - already averaging in double figures, with Stauskas coming off the bench to score 20 against the Wolfpack. Not with a backup freshman big man in Mitch McGary sending the crowd into frenzied excitement over seeing a 6-10, 250-pounder diving on the floor to knock a loose ball off an opponent and out of bounds.
They'd out-rebounded every opponent until N.C. State, but sent only two players to the glass in this one, in an attempt to get back and check the Wolfpack's quickness. They lost the battle of the boards, 31-25, but more than made up for it with just six turnovers to N.C. State's 13.
"They're playing, basically, four perimeter players around one center, and [rebounding] may not be their strength," Gottfried said. "But they're trading that, because they're getting shooters all over the floor, and scorers. There is a little bit of give-and-take with that, with them.
"Their centers are big - Mitch and [redshirt junior Jordan] Morgan But the other guys aren't really that big and thick. They're good players, but it's not one of those teams that just pounds you around the rim. That's not this Michigan team.
"This is a finesse team that really shoots it. That's how they're going to win games."
But make no mistake, Gottfried cautioned. They're going to win games.
"Their ability to knock down some threes hurt us, and their ability to get to the foul line more than we did," Gottfried noted, making two points in one. "We wanted to pound it inside, we got the ball around the basket all night long, but couldn't seem to find a way to get to the line very often. To their credit, they did. It's a good team that we played tonight."
Good and getting better, even if home doesn't hurt.
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