Michigan’s starting big man, Jordan Morgan, had a bad ankle roll last Sunday against Illinois. Morgan missed the win over Northwestern, but his status for Saturday’s game at Indiana is still up in the air.
Michigan coach John Beilein said today, “[Jordan Morgan] is going to try to do some things” during Michigan’s practice on Friday, just one day ahead of their big game at Indiana. Beilein also stated that Jon Horford would likely start in place of Morgan again, as he did against Northwestern.
I am going on the assumption that Morgan will not be able to play, and even if he does I can’t imagine him being effective with limited mobility. So, assuming Morgan is out, how will the Michigan big men deal with Indiana’s Cody Zeller?
Zeller is one of the best big men in the country and definitely the best in the Big Ten. He can do everything, from your traditional domination around the basket, to running and finishing on fast breaks. Zeller is a match-up nightmare for many good big men, but going against backup Michigan bigs could really allow Zeller to dominate.
Morgan is a good defensive big man, but none of his backups have proven that they can play strong defense over long stretches of time. Horford will likely start, but he is not used to big minutes. The fact that this is likely the most hyped college basketball game so far this season will add even more pressure on the often injured redshirted sophomore. Whether or not he is athletic enough to stay with Zeller is unknown, and could be his biggest flaw.
Although he will not be getting the start, Mitch McGary will likely play just as much as Horford on Saturday. McGary is probably as physically well suited to guard Zeller as anyone in the conference, with his great size and athleticism. The only question will be how the much-hyped true freshman will handle himself? He has a knack for over-thinking situations, and making simple freshman mistakes. However, McGary at his best is far superior to what Michigan would get from Horford. McGary averages a whopping 15 rebounds per 40 minutes, better than Zeller’s 12. He also grabs a very impressive 22.4% of total rebounds, when he is on the floor, better than Zeller’s 16.7%. Defensively, McGary is nearly as good as Zeller, with a defensive rating of 83.3, while Zeller’s is 82.7. McGary is more than capable of matching up with Zeller. If he can keep his head in the game and avoid foul trouble, McGary could have a big coming out party Saturday in front of a major national audience.
Michigan did not show any signs of missing Morgan in their win over Northwestern on Wednesday, but this game will be a different story. Zeller is as tough of a big man to handle as any in the country. Beilein and the Wolverines will need either Horford or McGary to really step up against Indiana, or Zeller could make it a long night for the Wolverines.