Mitch McGary or Jon Horford? Michigan may have a new man in the middle vs. Northwestern
On paper, Morgan averages 6.4 points and 5.2 rebounds for No. 1 Michigan -- solid numbers, to be sure, but not exactly staggering.
But, according to Beilein, Morgan's biggest value to the Wolverines is something most fans never see.
"Jordan Morgan, really, has learned to be a bit of a defensive specialist in some regard," Beilein said Tuesday. "He does a wonderful job for us. That's the last line of defense. That's the safety in football, I don't know if he's the catcher, pitcher, center fielder -- I don't know who he is, but that's the last line of defense.
"If everything else breaks down and he plays it poorly, you give up layups."
On Wednesday, when Michigan hosts Northwestern, Michigan might be without its last line of defense.
Morgan injured his right ankle at Illinois on Sunday, and was not expected to practice with the team Tuesday -- making him doubtful for the game against Northwestern.
And if Morgan and his 86-career starts are on the bench in street clothes Wednesday?
"I don't know yet," Beilein said. "We're going to have a competition in practice and see what we can figure out.
"We're going to try Spike Albrecht at center, and see how that works."
Beilein was kidding, obviously.
In reality, he said the Wolverines will start either freshman Mitch McGary or sophomore Jon Horford at the center position. Who starts? He's not sure.
McGary has played more this season as the team's top big man reserve. Through 20 games, he's averaged 5.6 points and 5.7 rebounds in 16.2 minutes per game, just barely less than Morgan's 19.2 minutes per game.
But he's just a freshman.
Horford, meanwhile, has shown flashes of turning into the player Michigan hopes he'll become, especially Sunday -- when he turned in 7 points and 4 rebounds in 17 high-energy minutes.
But he's missed a ton of time with injury.
Beilein also expects to get more time on the floor for redshirt freshman Max Bielfeldt, who has only appeared in 11 college games to date.
Who starts really doesn't matter, in the end. But without Morgan on the floor, Michigan's going to have a hole to fill.
"We're (still) waiting to see a report on Jordan and we'll watch some practice and hang it out there a bit," Beilein said when asked how he'll decide who starts Wednesday. "But no matter who it is, we're in a good situation with either (McGary or Horford) because both are fine players coming off the bench, and Max is ready, too.
"We're not going to put a lot into who starts. ... The minutes are there, I would assume some of them might play 15 to 25, or less. And another might play 5 to 10."
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