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Insider

Offense looks different without Horford

Next season, the Wolverines will most likely have one of the strongest inside games in the country with 2012 power forward commit Mitch McGary. But this season, with sophomore forward Jon Horford out indefinitely with a stress fracture in his foot, Michigan’s post game will look a little different.

Redshirt sophomore forward Jordan Morgan has secured himself the starting spot for the Wolverines, but the backup big man is a bit more unexpected -- 6-foot-9 sophomore forward Evan Smotrycz.

Smotrycz has been a solid wing player for Michigan this season, but with Horford out, the sophomore leapfrogged 6-foot-10 junior Blake McLimans for the backup position.

"They’re telling me to rebound a little more, but I’m out to rebound, so it’s nothing different really," Smotrycz said of what coaches have emphasized with his position change. "I’ve been playing 5 for a while really. It’s good to get a different look every now and then."

But when Michigan plays small and goes with Smotrycz in the post, it brings senior guard Zack Novak back to a similar position he has been in during the last few seasons -- a small forward with a nose for getting boards. The switch isn’t that drastic for him offensively, but defensively it moves him to guarding a larger player.

Novak has matched up well in the past but with a team like Indiana that has three forwards 6-6 or taller who each average at least 10 points per game, it puts Novak in a mismatch.

But playing Smotrycz at the 5 has its benefits for the Wolverines’ offense. With his strong outside shooting ability, opponents have to guard the high ball-screen differently because of the threat Smotrycz poses from range.

His presence and outside shooting stretches opposing defenses and opens the floor for players such as freshman point guard Trey Burke and sophomore guard Tim Hardaway Jr.

"When you have him in, you have another big-time threat on the floor," Michigan coach John Beilein said of putting Smotrycz on the floor. "Usually when you did that last year, we’d give something up in rebounding, but we’re not giving up nearly as much."

But the Wolverines haven’t faced a team that has been good at getting opposing post players into foul trouble, because when they do, Michigan could find itself relying on a McLimans matchup with some larger and much more experienced big men.

That’s when they might start to really feel the effects of Horford’s injury.

"We’re missing him," Novak said of Horford. "He was playing well. He’s a big part of our team. … Obviously, we’re a better team with Jon."