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Mitch McGary's departure will force Michigan to rely on freshmen in its frontcourt

Jeff Eisenberg
The Dagger
Michigan forward Mitch McGary passes the balls during a practice session for their NCAA college basketball tournament game Wednesday, March 19, 2014, in Milwaukee. Michigan plays Wofford on Thursday
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Michigan forward Mitch McGary passes the balls during a practice session for their NCAA college basketball tournament game Wednesday, March 19, 2014, in Milwaukee. Michigan plays Wofford on Thursday. (AP Photo/Morry Gash)

Michigan has enough returning perimeter talent to absorb the loss of sophomore standouts Nik Stauskas and Glenn Robinson III to the NBA and still contend in the Big Ten next season.

Mitch McGary's departure, however, is a far more staggering blow.

McGary announced Friday morning that he is entering the NBA draft, a decision fueled in part by a one-year suspension handed down by the NCAA after he used marijuana in March and failed a drug test during the NCAA tournament. With starting forward Jordan Morgan graduating and top reserve Jon Horford intending to transfer, next season's Michigan frontcourt will be bereft of returning big men from this past year's rotation. 

One option will be 6-foot-9 stretch forward Mark Donnal, who added 10 to 15 pounds of muscle during a redshirt season this past year and spent his time in practice on the scout team mimicking opposing centers. Six-foot-7 rising junior Max Bielfeldt will surely also see playing time next season, as will incoming freshman forwards 6-foot-9 Ricky Doyle and 6-foot-8 D.J. Wilson.

The key for Michigan will be for that frontcourt quartet to be solid enough not to hold back a perimeter group that is capable of being one of the Big Ten's best. Caris LeVert flashed star potential during a breakout sophomore season, Zak Irvin is an excellent shooter and wing scorer and Derrick Walton and Spike Albrecht form a very capable point guard duo.

It's a shame that McGary had the decision of whether to turn pro or not stripped from him because of a positive drug test, but entering the NBA draft may not be the worst thing for him.

First of all, he's already 22 years old, at least a year or two older than most sophomores. Furthermore, though concerns about the back injury that sidelined him most of this past season could cause him to slip to the early second round this June, there's also a chance his NBA stock could have suffered further if he came back to Michigan and reinjured himself or lacked the explosiveness he once had.

McGary's departure ends an unusual two-year college career in which he arrived as a highly touted recruit, blossomed during Michigan's run to the 2013 national title game but never got to validate that brilliant six-game stretch by following it up with a successful sophomore season.

Michigan had a chance for another deep March run had McGary been able to return to school. That now looks like a long shot unless a young, unproven frontcourt steps up.

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Jeff Eisenberg is the editor of The Dagger on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at daggerblog@yahoo.com or follow him on Twitter!

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