About a month ago, it was announced preseason All American forward Mitch McGary would be out indefinitely after undergoing back surgery. Analysts across the country ruled out the Wolverines, claiming Michigan lacked the depth and skill to replace McGary’s presence on the court.
Those analysts could not be more wrong.
Since losing McGary, Michigan is yet to drop a game. They have won nine straight contests with the most impressive being the last three victories. On January 18, Michigan traveled to third-ranked Wisconsin, and defeated the Badgers on the road. Then, at the Chrysler arena in Ann Arbor, Michigan once again defeated a top ten ranked team in Iowa.
While these victories impressed many, the greatest was yet to come. This past Saturday, the Wolverines traveled to East Lansing, where they defeated rival Michigan State. Despite the fact the Spartans were without star big man Adreian Payne, Michigan’s most recent Big Ten shocker helped propel them to the tenth ranked squad in the nation.
Because of these victories, Michigan remains the only undefeated team in the competitive Big Ten conference. The question is however, why is this Michigan team playing so well right now in such a difficult division? How have the Wolverine been able to overcome the loss of McGary?
First, sophomore Nik Stauskas’ emergence as a top scorer in the nation helped Michigan more than anything. The guard is averaging over 18 points per game and shoots about 46% from behind the arc. Along with fellow sophomores Caris LeVert and Glenn Robinson III, Stauskas has provided stability and scoring when the Wolverines need it the most.
The other main reason behind the Wolverines success without McGary in the lineup is the strong play of veteran big men Jon Horford and Jordan Morgan. The two have stepped up in the absence of McGary. The two have together provided strong defense and carried the rebounding load. Also, Horford and Morgan have improved their scoring averages.
With Big Ten play almost halfway through; the Wolverines sit atop the conference with the best record. The question that remains is whether or not Michigan can keep up this success. If sophomore standouts can continue to step up and veteran big men can continue to make up for the loss of McGary there is no telling how far the Wolverines can go this season.