The lasting image of Mitch McGary is the big man pumping his arms, informing the crowd that the decibel level is not acceptable to him. It was a symbol for fans to find an extra reserve of volume, to whip the Crisler Center into a frenzy.
Those days are gone, as McGary recently went under the knife for back surgery. His basketball decisions on gameday will be about which suit to wear, as opposed to how to keep the opposing center off the backboards.
McGary was averaging 9.5 points and 8.3 rebounds per game in limited minutes this year. McGary’s back had been bothering him all season, and he had yet to get up to game speed.
McGary’s value is not just in terms of numbers, but the intangibles. From throwing alley-oops to Glenn Robinson III and dribbling the ball up the court, McGary had a penchant for hustle plays.
His contributions will be missed, especially with Michigan’s lack of scholarship players. His injury, along with freshman Cole McConnell’s, has left Michigan thin on the depth chart. Mlive’s Brendan Quinn reported that assistant coach LaVall Jordan has suited up to fill out the scout team.
In terms of production, Jordan Morgan and Jon Horford will look to step up to fill the void left by McGary. The season has been a bit of a roller-coaster for Morgan, who saw his numbers drastically dip as McGary returned to the lineup. Morgan is now the starting center, as Horford prefers to come off the bench.
Morgan is averaging 5.5 points per game in Big Ten play, to go along with 5 rebounds. Horford has grabbed 8.5 boards per game while scoring 10.5 points per game. The two hope to form a two-headed monster while splitting minutes.
Max Bielfeldt has not picked up many minutes despite being the next big man up in the rotation after Morgan and Horford. The only time he played significantly was against Stanford, when foul trouble forced John Beilein’s hand.
Michigan will be able to replace McGary’s production with the platoon of Horford and Morgan. They might be able to find a hype-man replacement in the ebullient Nik Stauskas, who has an abundance of three goggles. Other players, like Caris LeVert and Robinson should be able to provide additional offensive.
The thing is, Michigan now lacks depth. And despite the other options, it still hurts to lose a preseason All-American. It’s tough to have a big man who can rebound and run the floor like a guard not be able to play.
Michigan has fared well since McGary last played, but the upcoming slate of tough Big Ten games will be an indicator of how far this team can go without its x-factor.
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