Jordan Morgan: The Man in the Middle

Jordan Morgan dunks amidst a sea of burnt orange Texas jerseys - Jeff Hanisch-USA TODAY Sports

Michigan's lone senior looks to bring the Wolverines back to the Final Four, and has taken on a bigger than expected role as the season has gone on.

With 24 seconds left in the 2013 Final Four and Michigan leading Syracuse by 2, Brandon Triche dribbled the ball up the court. He made a move, got past then-freshman Caris LeVert, but was met on the way to the rim and called for a charge. With 10 seconds left and Michigan up 3, Triche again drove to the basket and missed. The rebound eventually ended up in the hands of Tim Hardaway Jr., but another Michigan player ran the length of the court, finishing the play with a dunk that sealed the game. The man who made both crucial plays down the stretch? Jordan Morgan.

Morgan had an up-and-down Junior campaign in Ann Arbor, playing the lowest minute total of his career to make way for five-star recruit Mitch McGary. But McGary wasn't on the court to lead the Wolverines to the National Championship Game down the stretch. It was Morgan. It takes a special kind of leader and individual to lead a very young team back another Big Ten Championship and to another Sweet 16, but Morgan is the kind of leader that coaches dream about. He is a workhorse in the classroom as well, currently working on his masters in Engineering in his fifth year. Morgan has been in the Michigan program since the 2009-10 season, a redshirt year in which he was able to learn the nuances of the college game. His redshirt freshman year he was rushed into major minutes, a key contributor on the Michigan team that bowed out to #1 seeded Duke in a heartbreaking 73-71 loss in the second round. He continued to progress every year, and in his senior year has finally found a perfect role, splitting time with Jon Horford at the center position in the absence of McGary.

In terms of Morgan's play, he is still working to become a great offensive rebounder, and does most of his offensive damage on rebounds and putbacks. One thing I have noticed with Morgan as the season has progressed is the ferocity in which he is attacking the rim. I noted earlier than Morgan would finish most plays at the rim with a left-handed layup, but a spark has gone off. All four of Morgan's field goals in the win over Texas were dunks, and he seems to have found an even greater confidence than he had throughout his four years in Ann Arbor. He senses this is his last go-around, and has upped his play even more than Wolverines fans thought was once possible. The most impressive number from this year might be his shooting percentage, as Morgan is shooting 86-125 for a sizzling hot 69%.

While Morgan's offensive statistics are impressive, his greatest impact comes at the defensive end. Morgan is the anchor in the middle for Michigan, and was phenomenal against a brutish Texas frontline in the 35 minutes he played. Texas' Cameron Ridley looked clearly frustrated by Morgan's ability to think one step ahead, and though he didn't register any blocks, he changed plays at the rim that would have been easy layups.

Jordan Morgan doesn't have a jumpshot. He is clearly undersized at the center position at 6'8. He doesn't have amazing athletic talents or quickness or speed. But Jordan Morgan knows how to win. If Aaron Craft is the most eligible bachelor in the state of Ohio, Jordan Morgan would be easily the most eligible bachelor in the state of Michigan. Here's to hoping Mr. Michigan can lead the Wolverines back to the Final Four for a second consecutive year.

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