Michigan Basketball: Key Contributors Who Must Shine in Final Four vs. Syracuse
While stars like Trey Burke and Tim Hardaway Jr. are vital to Michigan's chances of winning the national championship in 2013, there are plenty of key contributors for the Wolverines who must turn out big games this weekend if they are to upend Syracuse and advance to Monday's title game.
A trio of freshmen, led by Mitch McGary, have been monumental for Michigan during its miraculous run to the Final Four in Atlanta this April, and the Wolverines need them now more than ever.
Here we'll take a closer look at the three key contributors who must shine for Michigan on Saturday.
Mitch McGary, F
Not to diminish how important Trey Burke has been for Michigan this postseason, but without the sensational play of freshman forward Mitch McGary this spring, the Wolverines would be at home getting set to watch the Final Four play out.
McGary is averaging 17.5 points and 11.5 rebounds per game in tournament play and is shooting a scorching 73 percent from the field.
The 6'10", 250-pound stud doesn't need to score 25 points again like he did in Michigan's Sweet 16 win over Kansas, but he absolutely must be a factor inside for the Wolverines if they hope to open up Syracuse's zone and avoid becoming one-dimensional with Burke on the perimeter.
The threat of McGary inside is enough to open up cutting lanes and open outside shots for Michigan. But if McGary isn't active and crashing the boards on both ends, the Wolverines won't stand much of a chance going one on one against the Orange on the perimeter.
Glenn Robinson III, F
Freshman star Glenn Robinson III may not get the credit Trey Burke and Tim Hardaway Jr. often receive for Michigan's success, but the 6'6" forward has been critical for the Wolverines on both ends of the floor and will be once again on Saturday against Syracuse.
Robinson is averaging 13.5 points and 6.3 rebounds per game in tournament play for Michigan and scored double figures in each game prior to the blowout win over Florida, which was never really a game.
The key numbers to remember for Robinson on Saturday are 6.4 and 12. In Michigan's seven losses this season, Robinson has averaged just 6.4 points, but he's averaged roughly 12 points in the Wolverines' 30 victories.
Given how strong Syracuse has been defensively, it's unlikely that Robinson will get enough shot opportunities to score a dozen points, but as long as he is rebounding at a high rate and moving his feet defensively, his impact is sure to be felt.
Nik Stauskas, G
After averaging just nine points per game through Michigan's first three NCAA tournament wins this spring, freshman guard Nik Stauskas exploded in the South Regional final versus Florida, hitting all six of his three-point attempts and finishing with a game-high 22 points in the Wolverines' 20-point blowout win.
Which player is the most important for Michigan vs. Syracuse?
Once again, Stauskas will be key for Michigan this weekend against Syracuse, as the Wolverines will have to knock down outside shots in order to have success against the Orange's scorching-hot 2-3 zone.
After all, Syracuse's defensive numbers have been incredible. The Orange are holding their tournament opponents to just 45.8 points per game, 28.9 percent shooting from the field and 16.1 percent shooting from beyond the arc on average.
Despite going 2-of-12 from deep through Michigan's first three games, Stauskas is now hitting 44 percent of his long-range shots for the tournament, which means he'll be the target of almost every kick out on Saturday in Atlanta.
If he struggles, going 0-of-4 like he did against VCU in the third round, Michigan could be going home sooner than expected.
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