What must Mitch McGary do to meet lofty expectations for the 2013-14 season?
Expectations for Mitch McGary and the Michigan basketball program are reaching new heights. The Wolverines will be one of the top contenders to win the Big Ten Conference title and make a run at a second straight Final Four. In order for either goal to be realized, McGary will have to live up to the hype that has followed him during the offseason.
After going relatively unnoticed for much of the 2012-13 campaign, McGary finally got himself into shape. What followed was a dominant performance in the NCAA tournament. In just six games, he went from being a under-performing ESPN 100 prospect to a projected lottery pick in the NBA draft.
It is amazing what a few great games can do.
Naysayers hope McGary's production will be curbed by the departure of Wooden Award winner Trey Burke. What is more likely, though, is one heck of an encore throughout the entire 2013-14 season.
There are five things McGary can do to ensure all expectations are met. Michigan will be relying on him to produce in all of the following areas.
McGary needs to give Michigan's offense second-chances and end opposing possessions after one shot.
Even when Mitch McGary is not scoring, he could arguably make the biggest impact on any game as a rebounder. Grabbing boards at the offensive end will give the Michigan Wolverines second chances to score. Given the team's struggles defending the perimeter a year ago, limiting opponents to only one shot per possession is something McGary must do more often than not.
Thankfully for Michigan fans, this is an area the Chesterton, Ind. native has the potential to dominate.
During the Wolverines' run to the national title game, McGary averaged 10.7 rebounds. In nine of Michigan's pre-NCAA tournament contests, the 6'10", 250-pounder grabbed at least eight boards. He only played more than 20 minutes in two of those games.
The potential for double-digit rebounds to become an every-night occurrence is clearly there. Living up to it will certainly satisfy the college basketball pundits.
Pulling big men away from the basket is something McGary could do with an effective mid-range jump shot.
Knocking down mid-range jump shots is something Mitch McGary did very well in the NCAA tournament. Although most of his points came via pick-and-roll situations and dump offs at the basket, McGary hit 9-of-18 jumpers, according to CBSSports.com's shot chart data.
Now, it is a small sample size, but there is every reason to believe this will be a valuable weapon in the rising sophomore's arsenal.
With an entire offseason at his disposal, McGary has sharpened his game at the LeBron James Skills Academy and Amare Stoudemire's camp. More than likely there was some time spent on shooting from the high post and other areas inside the arc.
So long as McGary can knock down mid-range shots with regularity, he will be a troublesome matchup for opposing bigs. It would also pull whoever is guarding McGary further away from the basket. This would open up some more lanes for the Michigan Wolverines to utilize.
Given what the Maize and Blue faithful has already witnessed, a big part of meeting expectations will be tied to his effectiveness as a jump-shooter.
There are not too many big men with the ability to rack up steals like Mitch McGary can.
The Brewster Academy alum racked up 12 steals in six NCAA tournament games. A trio of three-steal performances against Eastern Michigan, Minnesota and Wisconsin are impressive as well. McGary even managed to come up with four takeaways in the Michigan Wolverines' victory over Ohio State on Feb. 5.
Opposing bigs are going to have problems getting the rock outside the paint. Entry passes will not be easy given McGary's quickness and uncanny ability to anticipate what is coming.
The clip in this slide is evidence of this. McGary comes up with a steal near the wing, takes it the length of the floor and finishes with an uncontested dunk. On the ensuing Northwestern possession, he nearly comes up with a second takeaway, but settles for getting right in the face of his counterpart.
Still need more proof? Dylan Burkhardt of UMHoops found this statistic when giving McGary a postseason grade.
"McGary ranked sixth in the Big Ten in steal-percentage," Burkhardt wrote. "How impressive is that feat? Derrick Nix was the only other player 6-foot-9 or taller to rank in the conference’s top-30 in that statistic."
Watch out for several more steal-and-dunks from McGary during the 2013-14 campaign.
Transition scoring is a big part of Michigan's offense.
There is little doubt Mitch McGary excels when it comes to scoring in transition. His ability to run the floor is second to none when it comes to the big men in college basketball. Where McGary needs to improve this season, though, is down on the blocks.
This is not to say McGary has to score a ton in the post, but eight points on 17 post-up opportunities is not going to cut it. Those were his stats from a year ago.
What McGary needs is a go-to move for the few situations he will be called upon to produce down low.
A majority of the former 4-star prospect's points are going to come off of jumpers and dunks, whether they are self-created or dump offs from teammates. However, giving opponents one more thing to worry about will only create more scoring chances for McGary.
If he develops a solid post move(s) by Big Ten Conference play, hardly anyone will be able to stop him.
Could McGary wind up being a Euro-style forward by season's end?
The word "occasional" cannot be emphasized enough when it comes to Mitch McGary knocking down three-pointers. This does not imply he needs to turn into former Michigan Wolverine DeShawn Sims overnight, either. Still, McGary can hit shots from beyond the arc—he just never had the opportunity to do so as a freshman.
His former AAU coach, Wayne Brumm, knows it. Brumm told Seth Davis of Sports Illustrated, "(McGary) was among the best outside shooters in the country" as a junior in high school.
NBA scouts have also seen what McGary can do from distance. His performances have done nothing except help his draft stock.
Now, it is a little bit frightening to expect a player who did not attempt a single three-pointer a season ago to all of a sudden start making those shots. From what has been said this offseason, though, it has the potential to make McGary one of the most well-rounded bigs in the country.
Teams on Michigan's schedule already have to worry about what McGary can do inside the arc. Imagine how frightened all of them will be if a few treys start falling for the big fella.