The Michigan Wolverines and sophomore big man Mitch McGary came into the 2013-14 season with high hopes. After a slow start, the Wolverines got even more devastating news on Friday, as McGary has elected to have back surgery that will almost certainly put him out for the rest of the season.
McGary was a shocking preseason All-American pick, despite having a largely pedestrian regular season as a freshman. But in March he turned in some solid performances and dominated the NCAA tournament, averaging 14.3 points and 10.7 rebounds in six games. He helped lead the Wolverines to the NCAA championship game, and they were a popular pick to return to the Final Four this season.
But Michigan has started the season 7-4 and has struggled to find someone to fill the enormous hole left by National Player of the Year Trey Burke, who is now in the NBA. So far this season in eight games, McGary is averaging just 9.5 points and 8.5 rebounds.
After the tournament last year many speculated that McGary would jump to the NBA and it was surprising when he didn’t. He almost certainly would have been a first-round pick and may have even gone in the lottery. Now, the 6-10, 265-pound big man is viewed as a fringe first-rounder based on his early season performance and the back problems.
McGary had the following to say about his decision to have surgery:
My back problems have been a daily challenge ever since late August. We have worked hard rehabbing the injury, and I thought everything was proceeding in the right direction until the last two weeks.
I have consulted with my family, my coaches and our doctors and decided the best option now is to have surgery.
Michigan lost Burke and shooting guard Tim Hardaway Jr. to the NBA after last season, but McGary, Nik Stauskas and Glen Robinson III were supposed to pick up the slack. That hasn’t happened up to this point. Now the Wolverines will have to go back to the combination of Jordan Morgan and Jon Horford inside, a duo that wasn’t exactly stellar last season.
John Beilein’s team must now get more from guards Caris LeVert, Derrick Walton Jr. and Zak Irvin if it wants to make any noise in a loaded Big Ten.