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. Seven takeaways from AAU Nationals and Super Showcase

    Jul 28, 2014, 5:45 PM EDT

    (Scott Phillips/NBC Sports) (Scott Phillips/NBC Sports)

    Seven thoughts are a weekend at AAU Nationals and Super Showcase in Louisville.

  2. Washington lands a commitment from Jermaine Haley

    Jul 28, 2014, 3:36 PM EDT

    DRIVE Basketball DRIVE Basketball

    Haley is the first member of Washington’s 2016 recruiting class.

  3. Seven takeaways from Las Vegas for the final AAU weekend of 2014

    Jul 28, 2014, 2:59 PM EDT

    (adidas) (adidas)

    Our Raphielle Johnson spent five days at the tournaments out in Vegas last week. Here are his thoughts on them.

  4. One college coach’s unique connection to the Peach Jam

    Jul 28, 2014, 2:00 PM EDT

    AP/Jon-Michael Sullivan AP/Jon-Michael Sullivan

    Miami of Ohio assistant coach Trey Meyer is a native of North Augusta and grew up working, playing and coaching at Peach Jam.

  5. Kwe’Shaun Parker could win the NBA dunk contest right now (VIDEO)

    Jul 28, 2014, 1:36 PM EDT

    Screen Shot 2014-07-28 at 1.34.37 PM

    The scary part? The rising junior’s game is finally starting to develop.

  6. Report: Houston transfer Valentine Izundu is heading west

    Jul 28, 2014, 1:00 PM EDT

    AP Photo AP Photo

    Izundu played very limited minutes as a sophomore

  7. Kentucky’s budget for chartered jets is massive

    Jul 28, 2014, 12:33 PM EDT

    Kentucky Speedway Kentucky Speedway

    Want to guess how much they spend on planes for recruiting?

  8. July Live Period Week Three Superlatives

    Jul 28, 2014, 11:00 AM EDT

    Adidas Hoops Adidas Hoops

    The best of the best from the final week of the July live evaluation period from Las Vegas and Louisville.

  9. Ben Simmons does not make Australia’s national team

    Jul 28, 2014, 9:57 AM EDT

    Ben Simmons (Kelly Kline/Under Armour) Ben Simmons (Kelly Kline/Under Armour)

    Thon Maker won’t be on the team either, but it is loaded with former college stars.

  10. Skal Labissiere is considering Europe, but that doesn’t mean there’s a market for him

    Jul 28, 2014, 9:00 AM EDT

    "NBPA Top 100 Camp"

    Skal Labissiere may want to go to Europe. That does not mean Europe wants him.

  11. Official visit schedule set for five-star 2015 center Stephen Zimmerman

    Jul 27, 2014, 9:39 PM EDT

    Nike EYBL Nike EYBL

    Despite not being included among the five official visits, Indiana and UNLV remain options for Zimmerman.

  12. Louisville’s Montrezl Harrell breaks his second backboard of the summer

    Jul 27, 2014, 5:41 PM EDT

    AP AP

    Nearly three months after breaking a backboard during a pickup game, the rising junior took out another one this weekend.

  13. Arizona commit Ray Smith calls ACL tear ‘a blessing’

    Jul 27, 2014, 3:05 PM EDT

    ray-smith

    Ray Smith tore his ACL earlier this month.

  14. Assigned Reading: Michael Hausfeld, the man taking on the NCAA

    Jul 27, 2014, 1:35 PM EDT

    Getty Images Getty Images

    Ed O’Bannon’s lead attorney didn’t even know who he was when he first met him.

  15. Kwe Parker throws down 360 cradle dunk … again (VIDEO)

    Jul 27, 2014, 12:00 PM EDT

    picresized_th_1406475062_Screen Shot 2014-07-27 at 11.28.23 AM

    It’s been a summer of viral dunks for the 6-foot-2 recruit

  16. Las Vegas Saturday Recap: Bennie Boatwright, Justin Simon lead Dream Vision into adidas Super 64 semis

    Jul 27, 2014, 10:29 AM EDT

    Kelly Kline/adidas Kelly Kline/adidas

    Also some notes on junior college guard Andre Spight and 2015 guard Justin Foreman.

  17. North Carolina announces plans for program that aims to help former athletes complete their degree

    Jul 26, 2014, 6:34 PM EDT

    Nate Britt, Roy Williams AP

    North Carolina is the latest school making the positive step of looking to help its former athletes obtain their college degrees.