January 4, 2014

McCormick on win over Gophers

ESPN college basketball analyst Tim McCormick takes a look at Michigan's Big Ten-opening win against Minnesota. He also comments on the loss of Mitch McGary and what that means for the Wolverines.

Here's McCormick…

On the victory at Minnesota: "It was not a big win. It was an enormous win. I can't stress enough how important it was. They lose that game and they are 8-5, and there is no McGary. I don't know how long Glenn Robinson is out, but it didn't look good.

"You've got all the people starting to say, 'Okay, is Michigan an NCAA team, with five losses this early, and losing the first game of the Big Ten?' The naysayers would have been out.

"For young players, [Derrick] Walton and [Zak] Irvin, everybody would have tremendous questions everywhere. Now all of a sudden, you beat a really good team. I'm not saying they're top three in the Big Ten, but this is Michigan's biggest RPI victory by far, so far.

"It's on the road in a tough environment. It was a very, very impressive program victory, that should give them nothing but confidence moving forward."

On how much it helped playing Iowa State and Duke earlier on the road: "It made a big difference. Michigan played a very good schedule. The Arizona game has the same feel. I don't think Michigan looked at all nervous in the moment. They played really well.

"I have great confidence in this team moving forward. You don't lose Mitch McGary and say we're going to be better, but they can be just as good. I think [Jon] Horford and [Jordan] Morgan, combined, can put up very similar numbers to what they would get with McGary out there."

On Horford and Morgan as a combo: "It's not just Horford. It's both of them together. I don't think you're going to see them both put up big numbers in the same game, but there's a very good chance that you can expect one or the other to get double-figures scoring on a game-by-game basis.

"They will do the job very well. These are veteran players who have played a lot. They've gone head-to-head with [Trevor] Mbakwe. They've played big games against Jared Sullinger. They are experienced, veteran guys.

"In many ways, they should be thrilled at the opportunity. I'm sure they're human, and everybody wants to show what they're capable of. I'm sure there were times in the non-conference, before McGary went down, they were thinking, 'Okay, I'm going to be sitting on the bench most of the time and watching Mitch McGary. He's a great player and he's certainly capable of carrying our team, but is this my career?'

"Now all of a sudden, they have to feel like their careers are greatly rejuvenated. They get a chance to play on the biggest of stages and really help their team get to the NCAA Tournament and advance. I think you're going to get the chance to see both of them really excited about the opportunity that exists for both of them."

On Walton and Irvin in their first Big Ten game: "Big shots. Good defense. Helping on the boards. They played very well. Earlier I did my All-Big Ten Freshman Team, and both Walton and Irvin were on it.

"They've been as impressive as any of the other freshmen, besides [Indiana's Noah] Vonleh. They both have to feel like, 'I belong, I have a critical role,' and they should be filled with confidence."

On whether Michigan should get out to a 4-0 start in the Big Ten with its schedule: "I don't know which game it would be, but I would imagine they'll probably slip up at some point and be 3-1. It's a favorable start. They've got the toughest of those games out of the way.

"I've seen Penn State, I've seen Nebraska, I've seen Northwestern in person, and those teams have something in common - they play really hard. It wouldn't surprise me if Michigan gets knocked off in one of those games, but the schedule is set up for a very strong start."

On what he's looking for to indicate Michigan can make a strong run for the Big Ten title: "[Nik] Stauskas appears to be taking an ownership position on this team, as the best player, as a little bit of a playmaker. He's provided good leadership and very big shots.

"That's a great sign. He's a better passer, he moves better, he's harder to cover than last year. That's important, because if it's a while before Robinson comes back, you need somebody to pick up the scoring slack. I think it's Stauskas."

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