With Trey Burke and Tim Hardaway Jr. now in the NBA, the Michigan Wolverines have some needs to address in their quest to build on last season’s run to the national title game. A key figure in the Wolverines’ plans this season is sophomore forward Mitch McGary, who played his best basketball of the season during the stretch run. With that being the case, many expect the Chesterton, Ind. native to lead the way for John Beilein’s squad.
Unfortunately for McGary and the Michigan program as a whole he’s been dealing with a lower back issue. According to Beilein the 6-foot-10 McGary is “day-to-day” due to the ailment, which has slowed down the big man in his preparations for the upcoming season.
During Michigan’s run in the NCAA tournament McGary averaged 14.3 points and 10.7 rebounds per game, but even with the progress he’s expected to make this season McGary won’t be doing all of the heavy lifting by himself. Michigan also welcomes back fellow sophomores Spike Albrecht, Caris LeVert, Glenn Robinson III and Nik Stauskas.
Robinson III (11.0 ppg, 5.4 rpg) and Stauskas (11.0, 3.0) were the most consistent of these four sophomores last season, with Albrecht (17 points off the bench in the national title game) and LeVert proving to be valuable reserves as the season progressed. Add in front court veterans Jon Horford and Jordan Morgan, not to mention freshmen Mark Donnal, Zak Irvin and Derrick Walton Jr., and Michigan has more than enough depth to be a contender both in the Big Ten and nationally.
If anything, the new practice schedule may work in Michigan’s favor when it comes to making sure McGary’s rested and healthy leading into their season opener against UMass-Lowell on November 8 (the Wolverines’ first test is at Iowa State on November 17). With programs having 42 days in which to complete a maximum of 30 practices as opposed to beginning on October 15, there are more opportunities to give the squad some extra rest.
Michigan has enough talent to accomplish a great deal in 2013-14, but the task becomes more difficult if McGary isn’t at his best. It’s better to have nagging issues such as this one come up now as opposed to in the middle of the season, when it’s tougher for the body to fully recover.
The injury Stephen Zimmerman suffered on Saturday will keep the star UNLV freshman out for at least a week, a source told NBC Sports.
The injury is not thought to be serious, however. Zimmerman may be kept out for longer as a precaution, but that’s a result of the Runnin’ Rebels being in a situation where the rest of their regular season is relatively meaningless.
They’re not getting an at-large bid to the NCAA tournament regardless of how they finish out league play. With back-up center Ben Carter out with a torn ACL, it’s more important to make sure that Zimmerman, who is averaging 10.6 points and 9.1 boards this season, is totally healthy for the Mountain West tournament.
That tournament, mind you, will be played at UNLV’s Thomas & Mack Center.
So the Runnin’ Rebels, regardless of how poor they’ve played this season, will always have a chance to land an automatic bid.
Anyway, the more interesting aspect of this story is how Zimmerman injured the knee. It was a completely avoidable play that came after the whistle, but I’m not sure it was what you would call a “dirty play”. You tell me:
With a little more than three minutes left on Monday night, No. 24 Texas held a 57-51 lead on No. 3 Oklahoma in Norman as Jordan Woodard struggled again and Buddy Hield failed to find the rhythm that he had throughout the first three months of the season.
At that point in the game, Hield was 4-for-14 from the floor with 15 points and four turnovers. He had just missed a pair of wide-open threes
“I couldn’t make a shot,” Hield said after the game. But that changed down the stretch. First, Hield finally got a three to drop. On the next possession, he got all the way to the rim and scored. On the following two possessions, he was fouled on a drive to the rim and hit four free throws. And after missing a pull-up jumper, Hield did this:
“I told coach I wanted the ball,” Hield said, “I saw Lammert coming to bite, so I pulled up.”
“It’s all money.”
Hield is already the favorite to win National Player of the Year, and this performance is only going to help his cause further. Think about it like this: Buddy was not good on Monday night, at least according to his (admittedly lofty) standards. But he still finished with 27 points and shook off a cold shooting night just in time to take over down the stretch.
Now think about this: Hield’s head coach has enough confidence in him to hand him the keys in the final minutes despite the fact that he’s struggling and on a team that has two other players that Lon Kruger trusts on game-winning possessions. Think about it. When Oklahoma beat West Virginia at the buzzer, it was Jordan Woodard that the play was drawn up for. When they beat LSU, it was Isaiah Cousins that got the rock on the final possession while Hield was used as a decoy. .
Want to talk about coaching luxuries?
Kruger has three guards that can shoot, penetrate and score, and penetrate and kick, and one of them is the National Player of the Year that doesn’t mind being used as a decoy.