Against Kansas, it was Jayhawk senior Jeff Withey saying that he felt he could “dominate” Mitch McGary, who “wasn’t very tall” in the paint. Against Florida, junior Patric Young talked about how McGary wasn’t much of a post scorer. There has been no shortage of bulletin-board material for Michigan so far this tournament. Teams seem to be itching to push the Wolverines’ buttons.
It doesn’t look like that will change with Syracuse. On Friday, Orange senior guard Brandon Triche elaborated on what he think of Syracuse’s individual match-ups against Michigan.
“We think we’ve got mismatches at every position.”
But that’s not all. Triche went into specifics when talking about his teammate, 6-foot-8 junior C.J. Fair matching up with Nik Stauskas.
“How tall is he? 6-6? So, a small forward? So he’ll probably guard CJ? CJ’s definitely gonna go at him,” Triche said. “That’s what we did with Jordan Hulls, with him being such a good 3-point shooter, we went at him every play, he got a few fouls, and they had to sub him out.”
The external motivation opposing teams have been providing Michigan recently have been focused mainly on McGary. But it appears the Orange are looking to spread the wealth.
When Nik Stauskas was asked about the comments, he was blunt but wouldn’t take the bait.
“They’re going to say what they want to say,” Stauskas said. “We’re confident in our abilities. We’re just going to go out there and play Michigan basketball.”
Syracuse is clearly confident, even when it comes to going up against recent Player of the Year Award winner Trey Burke. Michael Carter-Williams was asked about Burke, and anticipates posting up the shorter guard.
“I think I can try to take him to the basket, get him on the block a little bit because I’m a lot taller than him,” Carter-Williams said. “There’s no pressure on me. He’s got a lot of pressure, now with Player of the Year, living up to expectations. I have no pressure, going out there, playing freely, enjoying the experience.”
Senior James Southerland was also finding Orange advantages everywhere he looked, including in the difference between the two teams’ experience.
Despite the fact that Michigan just beat two teams, Kansas and Florida, who had a clear edge in veteran leadership, Southerland thinks Syracuse can ride that to a victory.
“I know Michigan is a young team, we’re a little bit older, so we’re going to definitely try to play a little smarter,” Southerland said. “I feel as if we go out there and stop ’em early, make ’em take tough shots, limit them from second‑chance opportunities, we’ll be fine.”
Triche said he doesn’t think Burke is much better than another point guard Syracuse faced years ago, Kemba Walker.
“I put him on the same even field as any of our players,” Triche said. “I know for sure he’s a great player and if I had a choice for Player of the Year I probably would have picked him too. He’s human so we’re just going to go out there and do what we have to do to win the game.”
For Michigan’s part, the Wolverines were typically civil when discussing the strengths of Syracuse. Mitch McGary said that he disagrees with Triche’s assessment of the match-ups.
“I think we’re an evenly-matched team. I think going into this game, they’re a great defensive team with the zone, but they also have a great offensive team,” McGary said. “From our aspect, our team has just as many athletes. We have long guards and forwards who are just as equipped defensively as them.
“I would never talk bad about another team, always good things.”