It might seem like Michigan basketball has 99 problems, but unfortunately, the play of Mitch McGary is not one of them.
After posting huge numbers in the NCAA tournament last season, Mcgary came into his sophomore season with high expectations. He was named to the AP preseason
All-America team, and was on early Wooden Award watch lists–an award given to the nations best player. Expectations were quickly tempered when it was revealed the McGary was dealing with an ongoing back issue. With the severity unknown, Michigan fans were hoping that it was something that would just work itself out during the course of the season. Well the severity is now well known, and it doesn’t look good for Mitch or the maize and blue faithful. Just eight games into the season, McGary announced that his back required surgery. The surgery took place on January 7th and the prospect of McGary returning this season seems unlikely.
What does this mean for the team?
Well, after a sloppy 6-4 start, the Wolverines cranked out 10 straight wins including victories at Wisconsin and Michigan State. The loss of McGary seemed to have been mitigated by good perimeter play and solid contributions from big men Jon Horford and Jordan Morgan. While not true threats to score down low, both Horford and Morgan do a good job of cleaning the glass and playing solid defense. Problems have surfaced recently, however, as teams are adjusting to Michigan’s style of play. Shooting guard Nik Stauskas got off to a blistering start, averaging over 18 points per game and leading the Wolverines’ offensive attack. Though in the past five games, Stauskas is only averaging a hair over 10 points per game. Teams have also been taking advantage of Michigan’s lack of size down low, and teams with a true scoring threat in the post have given Michigan a lot of problems.
I thought this article was about Mitch McGary.
Oh right, him. It’s hard to exactly quantify what big Mitch brings to the table. He isn’t an extremely dangerous scorer on the block and doesn’t play elite defense. Where Mitch’s impact is felt is beyond the box score. Mitch securing a rebound and leading a fast break might not always show up in the box score (you know, minus the rebound), but it certainly makes a difference on the court. Even something as seemingly basic as a good outlet pass creates better scoring opportunities for the offense. Just watching him sprint down the court like he’s being chased by a rhinoceros after a made basket raises the moral of the team. On the defensive end, what Mitch lacks in leaping ability he more than makes up for in effort. There were several times last year when the score was out of hand that Mitch McGary would be diving on the floor after a loose ball. He can’t help it. Like a dog chasing a squirrel, it’s just in his nature. Never mind every person in the Crisler Center is screaming “DAMMIT MITCH WHAT ARE YOU DOING WE ARE BEATING THE CENTRAL OKLAHOMA CATHOLIC CHURCH LEAGUE RUNNER-UP BY TEN THOUSAND POINTS….STOP!”
Beilein was quoted this week as saying that they are not counting on McGary returning this season which you know, sucks. Watching Frank Kaminski bludgeon all of our front court players to death last week really showed how much Michigan misses the big fella. The question to be asked now is “Will he return to school next year?” McGary flirted with the idea of going pro last season but decided to head back to Ann Arbor for another year. Is it worth the risk to come back for his third year at Michigan or is he going to roll the dice and enter the draft after basically missing his entire sophomore season? No one knows for sure, and Mitch hasn’t shown is hand either way. It’s actually very likely that even Mitch has no idea what he’s going to do next year. But as long as he’s here, let’s try to enjoy him. It’s not every day that a 6-10 240 pound unicycle riding white board enthusiast dons your team’s uniform.
Michigan hosts Michigan State this weekend for what could possibly be the game that determines the Big Ten championship. And while Mitch won’t be able to play, don’t think for a second that he won’t have an impact on the game. Mitch has become the world’s largest cheerleader, jumping up and down so much you wonder if he needs an ice bath after the game. It’s time for Michigan to step up and put an exclamation point on what has already been a terrific season. If anybody needs some advice, just look at Mitch and he’ll tell you exactly what you need to do.
Win the game.