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Mitch McGary & the NBA Draft: If He Has a Great Title Game Against Gorgui Dieng, is He Gone to the NBA?

Mitch McGary was asked last week about leaving early for the NBA, but told MLive he was returning for his sophomore season. That was before McGary, 21, put on an impressive show Saturday against Syracuse, when he at times looked like Kevin Love (passing!), DeJuan Blair (offensive rebounding), and Dwight Howard (clanging free throws) during a 10-point, 12-rebound, 6-assist, 2-block performance.

Those were impressive numbers against a Syracuse zone that throttled lottery pick Cody Zeller just nine days earlier. During a 3-for-11 nightmare, Zeller finished with 10 points and 10 rebounds, but for an All-American, that was a terrible performance in a season-ending defeat. Zeller’s a 7-footer with a much more polished offensive game than McGary, so what happened? Is Zeller soft? Was Tom Crean’s game plan garbage? Probably a little of both.

Of course, one shouldn’t freak out about a single sour game by Zeller, or a few monster performances by McGary (he did destroy Kansas 7-footer Jeff Withey head-to-head, scoring 25 points and collecting 12 rebounds).

Who can forget less than one month ago, in Indiana’s regular season finale, Zeller dominating McGary inside – 25 points, 10 rebounds – while the Michigan freshman played just eight foul-plagued minutes in the Hoosiers 72-71 win? Since that defeat, McGary has played exceptionally well, registering four double-doubles in seven games. Perhaps the Indiana loss was his wakeup call?

I keep coming back to two things: 1) This is a weak draft in general, and 2014 will be a loaded draft; 2) this is a shaky draft for power forwards/centers; 3) if Trey Burke and Hardaway and Robinson leave, defenses will focus on McGary and it’s clear he doesn’t have much offense, and he could be exposed as a sophomore.

As discussed here, who would McGary be competing against at PF if he entered the draft? Anthony Bennett is the best of the crop, and I’d love to see him go head-to-head against McGary. Mason Plumlee is probably 2nd because of his length/athleticism, and then you start asking yourself: Who would you rather have – Cody Zeller, who you may have seen the best of, or Mitch McGary, a guy with a tireless motor who seems to be scratching the surface?

McGary will be a marked man against Louisville, as the Cardinals boast the best frontline he’s faced in the tournament – 6-foot-10 shot blocker Gorgui Dieng (10 blocks in last three games), burly Chane Behanan (6-foot-6, 250 pounds), and emerging pogo stick Montrezl Harrell (6-foot-8, 235). My guess is Louisville will attack McGary and Michigan inside, and try to force the Wolverines to play two bigs (Horford or Morgan), reducing the team’s offensive effectiveness.

Obvious counter from a Michigan POV: attack him with whom? Harrell doesn’t have much of an offensive game. Dieng is hardly an offensive force (0 points against an undersized Shockers frontline), and Behanan is probably the most likely candidate, but he’s been something of a forgotten man in the last month (only one game in double-figures, shoots 59 percent from the line).

I’ll stand by my Michigan +4 pick and for fun, take the Wolverines outright: 71-68.

Previously: Mitch McGary Referred to Himself as “White Thunder”, Was (Is?) a Fan of Drake
Previously: Mitch McGary is the Next … DeJuan Blair?
Previously: Mitch McGary Has Alter-Ego “Big Mitch,” Raps Like Rick Ross
Previously: Elijah Johnson Hit Mitch McGary in the Balls, and It was Very, Very Dirty [GIF]

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