Skip to content

Mitch McGary leads Michigan past Syracuse, into the title game

Apr 6, 2013, 11:47 PM EDT

Michigan v Syracuse Getty Images

ATLANTA — That vaunted Syracuse zone, the one that held Indiana and Marquette to a combined 89 points last weekend, did it’s job, at least on the perimeter. Michigan’s star point guard Trey Burke — that’s National Player of the Year Trey Burke to you — finished with seven points, shooting 1-8 from the floor.

Tim Hardaway Jr. wasn’t much better despite leading Michigan in scoring with 13 points; he needed 16 shots, hitting just four of them, to get those 13 points.

Nik Stauskas, the guy who went 6-6 from beyond the arc last Saturday while lighting up Florida to the tune of 22 points, was 0-5 on this Saturday night and finishing without a single point.

And Michigan won.

No. Seriously. They won. 61-56.

That’s what happens when Mitch McGary, who has been the breakout star of the 2013 NCAA tournament, decides to channel his inner John Stockton. The Chesterton, IN, native finished with 10 points and 12 boards. He set the tone for the Wolverines defensively with two highlight reel blocks in the first minute of the game. He threw down a couple thunderous dunks. But where he made his real mark on this game was as a zone-buster.

McGary finished with six assists on Saturday night. That in and of itself doesn’t sound all that impressive, but think about this: McGary had 18 assists all season long prior to setting foot on the court at the Georgia Dome. He didn’t have a single assist in the first four games of the season. He had all of four assists when Big Ten play began on January 3rd.

It wasn’t just the fact that he made the passes, either. He was throwing no-look touch passes with his right hand. (He’s lefty, by the way.) He grabbed a rebound and led a 3-on-1 break, dropping off a pretty little bounce pass to Tim Hardaway Jr. for a layup.

How many people knew that he was capable of that?

“It was very … intriguing as we were developing the game plan against the zone,” Michigan assistant coach Bacari Alexander said after the game. To breakdown the Syracuse zone, you need to somehow get the ball into the high post. It can be via dribble penetration or it can be the result of a pass into the foul line area. It doesn’t matter. The ball just has to get there because it will either create an open 15-footer from the foul line or a high-low pass for a layup. The key? Having a big man versatile enough to be able to make that pass or make that shot. Why do you think Otto Porter was so successful against Syracuse this season?

Mitch McGary isn’t Otto Porter, or so we thought.

“When the ball gets in the high post, there was two things happening,” Syracuse assistant coach Gerry McNamara said after the game. “We weren’t active enough from the guard position to keep it out of the high post, and then when it was getting in there, we werent active enough with the forwards to take away the dump pass.”

McGary made those dump passes. Maybe he is like Otto Porter after all.

“Did you ever think,” Alexander said, “that Mitch McGary would lead Michigan in assists over Trey Burke?” Not in a game that the Wolverines won. “I’m shocked.”

As are the rest of us, but the development is evidence of a point that the Wolverines made on Friday: the game is slowing down for McGary. He’s beginning to learn that basketball isn’t simply a game that has to be played at 100 mph. Nothing about the way McGary plays is nuanced; I don’t think he’s ever even heard the word ‘finesse’. But his understanding of Michigan’s system — the way that he can read the defense and know what is the right play to make — is where he has made the biggest strides this season.

“I consider myself a good passer,” McGary said.

McGary is still a bully. Michigan’s defense on Michael Carter-Williams and James Southerland is what won them this game. The tone on that end was set by McGary’s blocks at the beginning of the game. He still grabbed five offensive rebounds. He still was the most physical presence in the paint.

But more proof that he’s beginning to learn how to play the game is bad news for the Wolverines.

While it may win them a national title, it’s looking increasingly less likely that they’ll have McGary for another season.

You can find Rob on twitter @RobDauster.

Latest Posts
  1. Tom Izzo performs with KISS cover band on stage at Michigan State’s Midnight Madness (VIDEO)

    Oct 24, 2014, 10:55 PM EDT

    tom izzo

    Tom Izzo does it again. Add it to the long line of amazing midnight madness entrances.

  2. Chris Mack and his daughters performed ‘Paul Revere’ by the Beastie Boys (PHOTO/VIDEO)

    Oct 24, 2014, 10:24 PM EDT

    Instagram/XU Athletics Instagram/XU Athletics

    Chris Mack and his daughters performed ‘Paul Revere’ at Musketeer Madness on Friday night.

  3. Wisconsin’s Sam Dekker injured at practice on Friday

    Oct 24, 2014, 8:05 PM EDT

    AP AP

    The Wisconsin forward is likely to miss a week or two

  4. Providence freshman forward, a top 100 recruit, is cleared to play this season

    Oct 24, 2014, 7:30 PM EDT

    Ed Cooley Ed Cooley

    Ed Cooley adds a 6-foot-8 forward to the Friars’ front court.

  5. Larry Brown talks about Ben Emelogu’s wavier to play this season (VIDEO)

    Oct 24, 2014, 6:45 PM EDT

    AP Photo AP

    The former Virginia Tech Hokie will be a big boost to SMU’s perimeter.

  6. Manhattan’s returnees look to build on the achievements of last season’s senior class

    Oct 24, 2014, 6:00 PM EDT

    Emmy Andujar and Shane Richards will be key players for Manhattan. (AP Photo) AP

    Manhattan and head coach Steve Masiello had some issues to address this spring, but thanks in part to their departed senior class the Jaspers are well-positioned to once again contend in the MAAC.

  7. Five-star 2015 power forward down to five schools

    Oct 24, 2014, 5:05 PM EDT

    cd0ymzcznguwzdbhnduynddiytjhm2yyzthlmtjjotqwyyznpti1yzy1ymy3ytizody1zwrhyzfhmme2odcxyjawntbi AP

    One of the nation’s highly-touted bigs is closer to making a decision after eliminating two programs from his list.

  8. LSU’s Johnny Jones receives raise, contract extension

    Oct 24, 2014, 4:22 PM EDT

    Johnny Jones AP

    Jones became the second coach to lead LSU to postseason appearances in his first two years this past spring.

  9. 2014-15 Season Preview: Rivals Iona, Manhattan have company in race to the top of the MAAC

    Oct 24, 2014, 3:00 PM EDT

    Manhattan's Steve Masiello (AP Photo) Manhattan's Steve Masiello (AP Photo)

    Rivals Iona and Manhattan are once again among the contenders, but they’ll have plenty of company in the race for the MAAC crown.

  10. UMass rewards Derek Kellogg with contract extension through 2018-19 season

    Oct 24, 2014, 1:52 PM EDT

    AP AP

    Kellogg’s led his alma mater to 21 wins or more in each of the last three seasons.

  11. Former Big East foes announce home-and-home series

    Oct 24, 2014, 12:39 PM EDT

    John Thompson III AP

    Georgetown holds a 35-29 lead in their all-time series with UConn.

  12. Top 25 Countdown: No. 11 Villanova Wildcats

    Oct 24, 2014, 12:30 PM EDT

    Getty Images Getty Images

    Villanova went 29-5 last season and return essentially the same lineup. Why aren’t more people talking about them?

  13. Four-star shooting guard verbally commits to Texas

    Oct 24, 2014, 12:13 PM EDT

    Rick Barnes AP

    Texas now has two four-star commitments, with Kerwin Roach joining Eric Davis on Friday.

  14. Three-star guard becomes Baylor’s fifth 2015 commitment

    Oct 24, 2014, 10:00 AM EDT

    Scott Drew AP

    Of Baylor’s five verbal commitments in the Class of 2015 four are guards, including their latest commit.

  15. Syracuse, NCAA Committee on Infractions meeting set for October 30-31

    Oct 24, 2014, 12:06 AM EDT

    Jim Boeheim AP

    Syracuse’s men’s basketball and football programs are under investigation, with the stakes being higher for Jim Boeheim’s program.

  16. Georgetown’s senior center looking to rebound from ‘embarrassing’ 2013-14 season

    Oct 23, 2014, 11:20 PM EDT

    Moses Ayegba, Joshua Smith Moses Ayegba, Joshua Smith

    Joshua Smith averaged 11.5 points per game before being ruled academically ineligible last season.

  17. Cameron Payne didn’t expect to fill Isaiah Canaan’s void at Murray State, but he did

    Oct 23, 2014, 10:49 PM EDT

    Cameron Payne (AP Photo) Cameron Payne (AP Photo)

    Cam Payne became the star of Murray State as a freshman, but he wouldn’t have gotten there if he had a back up. Why?

  18. VCU announces addition of 17-year old Morgan Vega to basketball program (VIDEO)

    Oct 23, 2014, 9:53 PM EDT

    Shaka Smart Shaka Smart

    The preseason favorites to win the Atlantic 10 added a new teammate Thursday.

  19. Junior guard decides to leave Charlotte program

    Oct 23, 2014, 8:03 PM EDT

    Demetrius Pollard, Shawn Lester Demetrius Pollard, Shawn Lester

    Shawn Lester averaged 11.9 points and 4.2 rebounds per game in the sixth man role last season.