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January 9, 2014

News and Views: Beilein talks McGary, Nebraska

Michigan plays at Nebraska later tonight (9:00 p.m.) without sophomore big man Mitch McGary, who underwent successful back surgery Tuesday. Head coach John Beilein met the media to discuss that and more - here's our take on the coach's comments.

News: Sophomore forward Glenn Robinson III is showing no ill effects from his turned ankle, one that cost him the second half in a win at Minnesota. McGary's surgery was successful.

Beilein: "He's on his way back today [Wednesday]. We expect him to be in classes tomorrow, and everything went well.

"We haven't got the reports, but as all the doctors get together and think about rehab, that's No. 1 [compared to traveling with the team]. "Think about the stress on the back when you're sitting in planes - getting him healthy is our biggest thing."

Views: McGary might make it to a practice or two, but Beilein added that a good portion of his time would be spent rehabbing, as it should.

Is it possible McGary has played his last game in a Michigan uniform? Maybe. But he could well return next year to audition for NBA scouts one more time. Time will tell, but as he proved in returning for his sophomore season, he's in no hurry to leave. It's pretty clear it would take something unforeseen to see him again this year, however.

News: Beilein was pleased with the progress his team made after he watched recent film, but the Big Ten will be a war. Even tonight's game at Nebraska will be tough.

Beilein: "We're looking at a team with incredible potential and talent. Tim has done a good job putting his roster together as a collection of transfers, junior college and foreign payers that are really as talented as I've seen. It reminds me of what Iowa State did in their rebuilding process - found a team and put it together.

"It's going to be quite a challenge. It's the first Big Ten home game for them in their new arena, so we expect a sellout. We'll have to play our absolute best game. To get a win at Nebraska would be a really, really high level win for us."

Views: This isn't coachspeak. Michigan is a 5.5-point favorite, but the Cornhuskers will be a tough out in an electric environment.

Honestly, this might be the best Big Ten since Beilein arrived at Michigan. There are three legitimate, top three teams, all with easier schedules than U-M's, and Iowa and Indiana are more than formidable.

"It's tough to say that because it seems like every coach in every league is going to say this year is the toughest. It's all relative," Beilein said. "But when I look at it again, as I've been saying a number of years, there have been a lot of coaching changes in this league since I've been here, including three since I came here. It doesn't seem like we have of the 12 teams, four or five in that mode right now - there's quality everywhere."

Michigan misses out on playing Northwestern and Penn State twice, a killer this year. Every other game on the schedule has the potential to be competitive, and even PSU isn't that bad.

This could be a year in which the Wolverines have a better chance to do damage in the NCAA Tournament than in conference.

News: Michigan's young guys continue to improve across the board. Derrick Walton Jr. has played some of his best basketball in recent weeks, while Zak Irvin scored 15 crucial points in a win at Minnesota.

Beilein: "Derrick's growth the last couple weeks has been very good. Spike Albrecht now has a 38 to 8 assist to turnover ratio. Both make us better in diff ways. When they are both in the game, we're confident the ball is in good hands.

"With Derrick, we'll give him as much as we think he can handle, then some more. The game is slowing for him, but info will continue to come in. He's got to absorb all that, see trends, recognize things earlier, remember them from other games."

On redshirt big man Mark Donnal: "He has worked hard in the weight room, made some personal goals. He's doing well, a lot of extra sessions, but he can rebound with anybody on our team right now, probably as good a shooting big man as we have. He's 18 now, and unless he's needed will stay right where he is [with the redshirt]."

On Caris LeVert: "I don't agree he's struggling. By points, if that's how you measure a guy, yes, but he's leading us in defensive rebounds, his assists to turnovers is incredible, he's getting to the foul line, guarding the toughest player many times and doing a great job. He's growing as a player every single day. Second in steals, minutes played, shots attempted. We'd like to get more points out of him, but some days he will have some, some days he won't."

On Zak Irvin: "He's got a green light, but he has to realize with better shot selection, the better he's going to be. You have to understand the best green light to go with.

On defense, it's how can he become a better defender all around? We want him to be more efficient, get to the foul line. He's not getting there, and 50-50 balls, his numbers are improving but he's got to get more."

Views: All five will play big roles next year, and Beilein isn't the only one who has been singing their praises. The foundation is solid for the next few years, and the ceiling will be even higher if Nik Stauskas and McGary come back next season.

News: Sophomore shooting guard Nik Stauskas continues to impress with his ability to get to the rim and pass.

Beilein: "He's our leading assist guy right now. He's seeing the floor. One thing that gives him an advantage is he's 6-6, can see over the top, can make hook passes and go underneath. Darius Morris had that, as well. He's learning how to do things better as he goes along, but to have a guy that can shoot like that and then drive and pass is really good for us and his future."

Views: He's also getting to the free throw line much more because he's handling the ball.

"Tim and Trey had the ball last year, but now people are playing off him," Beilein said. "He can shoot and drive, and now the assist numbers are up. He's shot more free throws through 14 games than he did in 39 last year, a 66 percent jump."

And he might just be the Wolverines' best passer. Freshman Derrick Walton Jr. and sophomore Spike Albrecht are good in their own right, but Stauskas has a knack for finding the open man and again, that length that creates another lane. He's also defending better than he ever has and is Michigan's MVP through 14 games.



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