Here’s three players: Nick Johnson from Arizona, Quinn Cook from Duke and Mitch McGary from Michigan.
Player A: 11.7 PPG, 5.3 AST, 3.8 RPG, 41% FG
Player B: 11.5 PPG, 3.2 AST, 3.6 RPG, 45% FG
Player C: 7.5 PPG, .6 AST, 6.3 RPG, 59% FG
OK, so the rebounds are probably a dead give-away, but McGary is player C. But, if you had to pick which player was coming into this season as a preseason All-American, I’m pretty certain that you wouldn’t pick Player C. You’d most likely pick A, who, maybe surprisingly, is Cook. It’s possible you’d pick B, due to the higher shooting percentage and another year under his belt, he’s actually more likely to end up putting up more points this season. But, it’s fairly doubtful you’d pick C.
Luckily for McGary, the media ignored those numbers and decided to focus on two great tournament games that McGary played against VCU — who lacked a true big to defend McGary — and Kansas, where he played very well against the Jayhawks, and particularly Jeff Withey. Thanks to those games, McGary was voted a preseason All-American by nearly every media outlet imaginable on some level. Before those contests? He was average, if slightly below. He was just another freshman forward in the Big Ten and, though his numbers were a bit lower because of limited minutes, he certainly wasn’t taking the world by storm every time he saw the court. Instead, he was doing things like putting up two points and two rebounds against Indiana in the regular-season finale (you think he’d be settled in by then) or dropping 14 and six against Ohio State in a win (easily his best game of the season), or even scoring zero points on 0-of-4 shooting while grabbing just three boards in 20 minutes against a lowly Penn State team (easily his worst).
McGary’s capable of doing some great things on the basketball court. He’s a deft passer in the lane and capable of kicking out to shooters when doubled — and Nik Stauskas will be a very happy beneficiary of those doubles and kicks. He has great touch around the rim with both hands, a big body that maneuvers well in the lane and he’s a very capable of shooting fairly well from 15 feet and closer. Is he capable of having a great season this year, especially since he’s going to be thrown into the fire of carrying a lot of the Michigan offense? He most certainly is and it wouldn’t be a complete shock to see him improve on last year’s numbers. But improving on seven points and six boards isn’t incredibly difficult, it’s likely that he’ll even average double figures in both categories. That’s called a solid season, but it’s not All-American numbers by any means.
The point is, McGary played two outstanding tournament games and captured the media’s attention. The attention was well deserved after those games because he went bonkers and played on a higher level than nearly anyone in the tournament. It’s pretty fair to say that he, along with a few insane Trey Burke triples, carried Michigan on that great run to the Final Four. But when they got into the national semis, McGary scored 10 and grabbed 12 boards against Syracuse. In the Finals, he had six and six. Right around his average.
Most good players have outstanding games occasionally, sometimes even a few in a row, but usually they regress to their average level of play. Mitch McGary had a few outstanding games in last year’s tourney, but by the end of it, he was playing the way he always did: like a solid basketball player. But an All-American? That’s saying a bit too much.
Note: McGary will miss a handful of early season match-ups due to a lower back issue, more here.