December 1, 2012

McCormick on Big Ten, U-M

Former Wolverine and present college basketball analyst Tim McCormick continues his look at Michigan basketball, in this exclusive to

Here's McCormick…

On freshman Mitch McGary: "He has a tremendous luxury as a young player. They're not dependent on him carrying the load. He can keep his eyes and his ears open and soak up as much coaching as possible, and just go play hard - bull in the china shop.

"Knock people around, run the court, get excited, have fun. There is no pressure on him to carry the team. On great teams, you have many different pieces that share the job. He's got a very important role - to use his body and strength and enthusiasm to impact the team in that way."

On the Big Ten, so far: "I had a couple of games in the ACC/Big Ten Challenge. That was really good to see. I saw Iowa and Penn State in person. The challenge when you're broadcasting is, you don't get a global picture, because you're so focused on your game.

"I've watched everybody in the Big Ten at least once. To me, Michigan and Indiana are clearly a step above everybody else. I could make an argument that Michigan is better than Indiana, but at this point, there is still so much more to be played that it would be pointless."

On how the two teams compare: "I like Michigan's guards better than Indiana's. From a star-power standpoint, [Cody] Zeller and [Christian] Watford are All-American-caliber players. But the reason I like Michigan's chances is that they have enough size, strength and depth on the front line to be able to deal with those guys.

"If you can get a draw on the front line with Indiana, and out-perform their guards, Michigan has got a great chance to win the Big Ten championship."

On those who say Michigan won't lose a game before the Big Ten season, and what the Wolverines need to improve on most before league play begins: "West Virginia seems like they're down this year. Arkansas is at home. B.J. Young and Marshawn Powell are really talented players.

"I think that's a good match-up for Michigan. It wouldn't surprise me to see them run the table, but that's not ultra important.

"The area they need to improve is just their contain defense. What a great asset, to be really good at keeping your man out and on the perimeter, to not have to rely on your big guys to block shots.

"Sometimes really talented transition teams can get a little bit impatient on defense. As Michigan grows, the one area I'd like to see them improve is to be able to play a whole 35 seconds of keeping your man in front of you, knowing where the ball is - old-school basketball defense."

On final thoughts regarding this team: "I'm just really impressed. I knew they were talented. I went and watched them practice three weeks ago. I just sat there in awe of where they've come under the leadership of John Beilein and his staff. I'm really impressed with his assistant coaches.

"Just as Michigan State took a decade to kind of grow into a basketball powerhouse, where they're nationally renowned, where they have Gary Harris and Jabari Parker is strongly considering them, people rank them among the top-five programs in the country, that's the direction Michigan is heading right now.

"They've got unbelievable facilities. They've got a coach that plays a fun style. The kids seem like they're growing and having fun. The fans are energized, and it's really a great thing to see."

(You can follow Tim McCormick on Twitter at @TMcCormickESPN)

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