Gottfried: "It's A Great Opportunity"

RALEIGH, N.C. -- NC State head coach Mark Gottfried met with the media to discuss the upcoming game against Notre Dame.

Mark Gottfried

Is there a much more defensive variety from your team this year?
I think we have some guys on our team this year that are pretty versatile defensively. we have a little more depth and a little more quickness all over the floor, and I think that's helped us.

We have done some different things. We've used our zone more, our press at times... just kind of game-by-game trying to figure out what we think is the most effective.

But, we have the personnel to where we can do some more things than in the past.

How about when you face a 'small ball' team?
I think the answer to small ball, if Notre Dame plays it, is we have to take advantage of them offensively. If you're not taking advantage of your size on the offensive end you're at a disadvantage defensively because of the way they play.

For us, our bigs have to step up and play. It's similar to Duke starting Winslow... playing four guards with Okafor. We were able to take advantage of some things inside around the basket.

Because if you're not doing that, you're probably on the short end on both ends of the floor. For us, offensively, how we attack them, is going to be important.

Does how Abu played at Miami maybe change things with how you play Connaughton?
Nah, I don't know if it changes anything, but he's gaining confidence and his teammates are getting confident in him. As a coaching staff we've felt he could be effective, but now you start saying maybe we need to go to him a few more times because he has developed rapidly here for us.

You played them last year. It seems every player on their team is better.
They are a completely different team. Last year they played two bigs all the time... this year they've been somewhat exclusive with a four-guard offense. At times they'll go five guards and not play anyone over 6'6.

They'll spread the floor, penetrate and pitch it... play that way. It's been effective for them.

Grant makes a huge difference. He just changes the whole team... he's that good. Around him, everyone is better... they are all better because they are a year older, but Grant has made a difference.

Connaughton is a unique player. How do you guard him?
It depends on how the game unfolds.

We're going to go with what we do first. We may have to adjust throughout the game, but Malik and Lennard, to begin with, have to step up to that challenge.

He's a tricky matchup because he does pick=an=pop, he shoots the three really good, and he's a big, strong guy. But, our theory too is they have to guard us too no the other end. We have to be able to take advantage of their lack of size at times offensively.

Do you expect a festive crowd on Sunday?
I think it's going to be a great atmosphere. I think our guys will be very anxious and excited to play.

It's a great opportunity for us to play a top 10 team. Our guys will be pretty pumped up.

Some in the vicinity have a hard time believing they are a top 10 team. They have a lot of mental toughness though.
I think they are really good. First of all, they are 18-2 and have great quality wins. They've won on the road in some difficult places.

Offensively, they are as good as anybody we've played this year. The way they shoot the three, penetrate.. Grant and all those guys.

I don't know where they should be ranked, but I know they are really good. Offensively, they are exceptional.

It gives you an opportunity at a big win.
I think in the league, our schedule is one of the most-difficult league schedules than everybody else. Not that it's the most difficult, but it's one of them.

You can whine about it... but you have more chances to beat good teams. That's the way I look at it. We're excited about it.

As you become more known for your defense, you can't have those moments where you don't defend, right?
Yes, and that's been the message since the timeout at the 17-minute mark, forward.

That stretch hurt us. What it also did was take great momentum away. We had such great momentum at the half.

Especially on the road... it magnifies on the road. Hopefully that's a lesson been learned.

You think Trevor has tired legs?
I don't buy into that tired legs stuff.

21, 20 years old... it's against the rules. You're not allowed to get tired. Nope, don't buy that.

Good defense by Miami?
They are good, and their wings have good size too. With McClellan and Reed, 6'5/6'6, long athletic wings.. probably bothered us a little bit.

It it a little surreal that your team is more known for the defense this year than the offense. Is that accurate?
Sure... probably. I think our defense has helped us win more games this year than our offense has.

Every team is different. For example, offensively, you look at Caleb, Cody, and Malik... freshmen. Are they ready to score on a nightly basis as they will be as juniors?

Cat, Lennard, Kyle, and BeeJay... we're all over the board offensively, but the one thing that can be pretty consistent is our defense with this group.

We're athletic, deep, and guys have bought in. Hopefully that can help us, but we still have to get a little more efficient offensively too for a young group.

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