The Louisville Cardinals asserted themselves as one of the most complete teams in college basketball for a large majority of the season. With players like Peyton Siva and Russ Smith at the guard spots, and guys like Gorgui Dieng down low, the Cardinals dominated their opposition this season with stingy defense and an effective offense.
In Monday night's national championship game, though, the Cardinals will now face a team that is more complete than they are, in the Michigan Wolverines. That is because of the emergence of freshman forward Mitch McGary.
Michigan has had the best guard combination in the country all season. With Player of the Year Trey Burke at the point guard spot and Tim Hardaway Jr. at shooting guard, the Wolverines could run up and down the floor against any team in the country, and they were the most efficient offense in all of college basketball this season. Throw in freshman guard Nik Stauskas to knock down some key three-point shots, and you have a lethal combination of guards that will give any team headaches.
But what about the big men?
Glenn Robinson III had a fantastic freshman season for the Wolverines, as he averaged 10.9 points per game to go along with 5.5 rebounds per game. He showed outstanding athleticism at numerous points during the season with lots of highlight-reel dunks, but like most forwards, you need to have another good player standing beside you in the post.
The Wolverines simply did not have that at points during the regular season.
Michigan was absolutely dominated on the glass in some of its biggest games of the season. In their losses to rivals Indiana and Michigan State back in February, the Wolverines were outrebounded 36-22 and 40-28, respectively. There are other instances of Michigan being outrebounded by bigger and stronger teams during the regular season, but those are two of the more notable instances.
Now, by no means was Michigan a bad rebounding team this season, these statistics just show that the reason it was unable to win key Big Ten games and ultimately win the Big Ten title was because of its rebounding.
Enter: Mitch McGary.
McGary had a good regular season for the Wolverines. He had seven games in which he scored in double digits, five games in which he had double-digit rebounds, and two games in which he recorded a double-double because both of these occurred. For a young freshman player, he had a very good season. If Michigan wanted to become a national championship contender, though, the youngest team in college basketball was going to need more from the 20-year-old McGary.
They certainly got more once the NCAA tournament began.
McGary has recorded at least 11 points and nine rebounds in every game of this tournament. He has made 37 of his 53 shots for a shooting percentage of 69.8 percent. He also put forth his biggest performance of the season when Michigan needed him most against Kansas, recording 25 points and 14 rebounds in Michigan's overtime victory.
McGary has completely changed this Michigan team. He has turned them from a good team into a great team, and ultimately his performance will make the youngest team in the country the best team in the country when they win the national championship on Monday night.
Michigan has the guards to match Louisville's stingy defense, and now it has the guy it needs on the glass to match up down low with Gorgui Dieng.
Monday night's title clash should be a great one, but with the new Mitch McGary on their side, the Wolverines have what it takes to cut down the nets in Atlanta.