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The Mitch McGary vs. Jeff Withey battle may decide the outcome of this Friday's contest.
The matchup everyone should be watching closer than any other on Friday night will be between freshman power forward Mitch McGary and fifth-year senior center Jeff Withey.
McGary has been the main reason for the Michigan Wolverines' revival in the 2013 NCAA tournament. During Michigan's season-ending 6-6 stretch, McGary struggled due to conditioning issues and foul trouble. According to head coach John Beilein, McGary will no longer be hampered by the former.
"I think it has a lot to do with his conditioning right now," Beilein told Joe Stapleton of UMHoops.com. "He's 256 pounds, which is probably a pretty good weight for him. He's really just been injury-free. He came in with a leg problem and it's worked itself out. That's a big thing: his conditioning is much better than it has been in a long time."
A lighter McGary has done wonders for Michigan's offense and overall energy. McGary averaged 17 points, 11.5 rebounds and 1.5 steals in the Wolverines' two wins last week.
Withey will present McGary and the Maize and Blue faithful with a much more accurate gauge on exactly how close he is to being an All-Big Ten performer.
The two-time Big 12 Conference Defensive Player of the Year led the nation in blocks this season (141), and recorded a dozen swats in the Kansas Jayhawks' victories a week ago.
In order for Michigan to counter Withey's defensive prowess, McGary will need to draw him away from the paint. McGary can do this when the Wolverines run the pick-and-roll near the top of the key. Hitting a few mid-range jumpers, which McGary has shown the ability to do, will help as well.
Containing Withey's offense will be a daunting task for McGary, too. Withey has scored at least 14 points in Kansas' last four games. The 7'0", 235-pounder has also grabbed an average of 9.25 rebounds during the stretch of wins.
If the new and improved McGary can keep Withey off of the glass on the offensive end, contest most of his shots and continue to make hustle plays, the Wolverines will find themselves in the Elite Eight.