CHICAGO (AP) Mitch McGary is involved in Michigan’s practices. He makes suggestions to coach John Beilein during games. He even helps fire up the Wolverines on occasion.
The one thing McGary can’t do right now is play, and Michigan sure could use the injured big man when it takes on Texas in the third round of the NCAA tournament on Saturday. The Longhorns have a handful of long post players, turning size into a giant concern for Beilein and company.
”Concerned about it because the ball needs to bounce our way,” Beilein said Friday. ”We got to box out and really do a good job.”
The ball bounced Texas’ way in the second round against Arizona State. The game was tied at 85 in the final seconds when Jonathan Holmes’ errant 3-pointer ended up in the hands of Cameron Ridley, who banked it in as time expired.
Led by Holmes and Ridley, the seventh-seeded Longhorns outrebound their opponents by an average of seven boards per game. They average 14.9 offensive rebounds alone.
”Definitely a point of emphasis going into the game. Just getting the ball inside and attacking off the glass, trying to take advantage of that,” said Holmes, who leads the team with 12.9 points per game. ”We know they’re going to try to take advantage of our size, make that a negative thing on them when they go on offense.”
Texas (24-10) is trying to advance to the Sweet 16 for the first time since 2008 and the sixth in the last 13 years. No. 2 seed Michigan (26-8) made it to the round of 16 last year and kept right on going, losing to Louisville in the national championship.
The last game between the Longhorns and Wolverines also was during the NCAA tournament at the Bradley Center in Milwaukee. Then-No. 10 seed Texas advanced with an 80-76 victory in the first round in 1996.
While Texas brings a ton of size into the Midwest Regional matchup, the Longhorns were outrebounded by the Sun Devils on Thursday night. Jordan Bachynski, Arizona State’s 7-foot-2 center, had 25 points and seven rebounds.
”Everyone is talking about that we could have a size advantage inside,” Texas coach Rick Barnes said. ”John Beilein has coached a long time. He’s played in a league where there’s a lot of big people as well.”
The 6-foot-10 McGary played in only eight games this season before he was shelved by a back problem. But Michigan went on to win the regular-season title in the Big Ten.
Jordan Morgan had 10 points and 10 rebounds in the Wolverines’ 57-40 victory over Wofford in their first tournament game, and team captain Jon Horford also will play a key role inside.
Here are five more things to watch when Michigan takes on Texas:
KIND OF A BIG DEAL: As Nik Stauskas goes, so goes the Wolverines. The sophomore guard had 15 points against Wofford and averages a team-high 17.4 points per game. He also shoots 45 percent (83 for 184) from 3-point range.
In Michigan’s eight losses this season, Stauskas averaged 12.8 points on 37 percent shooting from the field.
GROWING UP I: Texas and Michigan start freshmen point guards, putting that position in focus for the third-round game.
Isiah Taylor helped the Longhorns get off to a fast start against Arizona State, scoring nine of his 11 points in the first half. He also finished with six assists and only one turnover.
Michigan’s Derrick Walton Jr. had six points, five assists and two turnovers in his first tournament experience. He averages 8.1 points.
”Those two young men, that will be a great battle tomorrow because they’re really quality young point guards,” Beilein said.
GROWING UP II: Texas got a big boost in its first tournament game from freshman reserve Martez Walker, who had a career-high 16 points in 22 minutes. The 6-foot-4 guard went 9 for 10 at the free-throw line.
Walker has scored in double digits in three of his last four games and is averaging 11.3 points in that stretch.
”He’s really grown in the last month a lot,” Barnes said.
LONG-RANGE SUCCESS: The 3-point shot is a big part of Michigan’s game. The Wolverines average 8.4 made 3s and are shooting 39 percent from long range for the year.
The Longhorns have to find Michigan’s shooters in transition to have success in their tourney matchup.
STAYING FOCUSED: Texas’ dramatic victory over Arizona State was its first win in the NCAA tournament since 2011. The Longhorns celebrated on the court after Ridley’s winning play, but they’re not worried about a letdown against the Wolverines.
”We got to be hungry for more,” guard Javan Felix said.
Jay Cohen can be reached at www.twitter.com/jcohenap