Michigan Basketball: How Mitch McGary's Return Impacts Wolverines

Doug BrodessCorrespondent INovember 21, 2013

AUBURN HILLS, MI - MARCH 21:  Mitch McGary #4 of the Michigan Wolverines drives in the first half against Tony Fiegen #34 of the South Dakota State Jackrabbits during the second round of the 2013 NCAA Men's Basketball Tournament at at The Palace of Auburn Hills on March 21, 2013 in Auburn Hills, Michigan.  (Photo by Gregory Shamus/Getty Images)
Gregory Shamus/Getty Images

Sometimes good news and bad news show up at the same time.

Michigan men's basketball coach John Beilein and his young Wolverines team were confronted with both earlier this week after their loss to Iowa State in Ames.

The good news was that Mitch McGary is back and ready to battle under the boards.

The bad news was that McGary's return did not automatically make Michigan a Big Ten contender or a Final Four favorite. In fact, his return from a nagging back condition did not even translate into an initial victory at Hilton Coliseum on Sunday.

The big questions for this young ballclub relate to how all of the pieces best fit together with McGary in the lineup.

The 6'10" power forward's return will eventually lead to exciting times and lots of wins. For now, his presence in the lineup will impact the Wolverines in three specific ways.

 

The Rotation Will Take Shape

Because McGary returned sooner rather than later, Beilein can get on with figuring out the best starting lineup and most potent rotation for the 2013-14 season.

He does not have to keep using redshirt junior Jon Horford or graduated senior Jordan Morgan as stopgap starters for an extended portion of the year.

However, MLive.com's Brendan Quinn reported the following: "Asked Wednesday if he expects McGary to return to the starting lineup for Thursday's game against Long Beach State, Beilein said that is unlikely."

Though he will come off the bench initially, do not expect McGary to be sitting for long.

McGary's numbers in his sophomore debut were decent (nine points, six rebounds and four steals in 22 minutes) and should only get better as he gets back into playing shape.

Possibly after Michigan returns from the Puerto Rico Tip Off, Beilein will set Michigan's starting five.

 

Style of Play Will Improve

Without a doubt, McGary automatically gives Michigan a physical presence that it did not have in his absence.

One of the ways that he impacted last year's NCAA tournament team was his unbridled approach to the game. He plays full-tilt all the time.

No disrespect intended to redshirt junior Jon Horford or graduated senior Jordan Morgan. They have important roles on this team, but they don't bring the beast mode like the strapping sophomore.

McGary's forcefulness is contagious, and Michigan will become a more tenacious team with him on the floor.

Sophomore forward Glenn Robinson III is already averaging 3.3 steals per game. Could he do even better if Michigan turns it up a notch?

ANN ARBOR, MI - NOVEMBER 08: Glenn Robinson III #1 of the Michigan Wolverines defends against Akeem Williams #11 of the Massachusetts Lowell River Hawks during the second half of the game at Crisler Center on November 8, 2013 in Ann Arbor, Michigan. Michi
Leon Halip/Getty Images

 

Open Looks for Wolverines' Wings

McGary is a legitimate interior scoring threat, so Michigan's opponents have to play him straight and keep one of their posts in the paint at all time.

Because they have to pay attention to him, the Wolverines' foes are limited on how much help they can give on the perimeter with shutting down Nik Stauskas, Caris LeVert and Spike Albrecht

It is not like this trio needs a lot of help. Each of them is shooting at least 50 percent from beyond the arc so far.

Just think if Stauskas and LeVert get more open looks than they already have been getting in the opening games of the season. 

ANN ARBOR, MI - NOVEMBER 08: Mark Cornelius #30 of the Massachusetts Lowell River Hawks defends Nik Stauskas #11 of the Michigan Wolverines during the first half of the game at Crisler Center on November 8, 2013 in Ann Arbor, Michigan. Michigan defeated U
Leon Halip/Getty Images

 

Looking Ahead

Because Beilein is a veteran coach, he will not panic or push too hard in putting McGary back onto the floor for max minutes.

With a little time of playing together with McGary in Puerto Rico, Michigan's chemistry and flow will start to emerge.

Before you know it, the Wolverines will be ready to face a daunting December slate (featuring Duke, Arizona and Stanford) leading into another thrilling Big Ten season.