When we look back at a young Mitch McGary and his career at the University of Michigan, the most common sentiment will probably be "what could have been?" After McGary showed some potential in limited playing time early on in his freshman season, he became a breakout star during the NCAA Tournament thanks to his energy and rebounding, as well as some well-time passes from Trey Burke.
The game that marked the arrival of Mitch McGary as a major NBA prospect was the 4/5 matchup that Michigan faced against VCU in the third round of the 2013 NCAA Tournament. Under head coach Shaka Smart, the Rams were and still are a team that uses its lack of size to its advantage by pressuring bigger, clumsier teams into turnovers and creating transition opportunities.
Fortunately for the Wolverines, McGary isn't your average big man. Bursting with athleticism and inside finishing ability, McGary torched VCU for 21 points on 10-for-11 shooting while only turning the ball over two times and grabbing 14 rebounds. With McGary leading the team in scoring, Michigan trounced VCU 78-53 and moved on to the Sweet 16, where they would face the heavily favored Kansas Jayhawks.
Scoring a bunch of points against VCU was nice, but how would McGary fare against a major powerhouse like Kansas with its outstanding center Jeff Withey patrolling the middle of the floor? Quite well, it turns out.
With Withey on the floor for 39 of the game's 45 minutes, McGary proved he was up for the challenge, pounding Kansas for 25 points and 14 rebounds, five of which were on the offensive end. Once again, the freshman big man was Michigan's leading scorer, and once again, the Wolverines pulled out a huge victory, triumphing over Kansas 87-85 in overtime.
During the 2013-14 season, McGary was severely limited by a back injury before finally deciding to have season-ending surgery. His status as an NBA draft prospect is based not only on his combination of size and athleticism, but also his performance on the big stage of the NCAA Tournament. If McGary didn't breakout the way he did, he wouldn't be highly as thought of as a prospect.
It also helped, of course, that McGary had such a talented point guard in Burke giving him the ball. The current NBA guard's incredible poise under pressure helped guide McGary and the Wolverines to success against VCU and Kansas. McGary stands up well as a prospect on his own, but it would certainly boost his early career if he was paired with another talented point.