Michigan v Louisville

Is the ‘Mitch McGary Injury Watch’ close to ending?

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On the heels of a breakout NCAA tournament, Michigan sophomore center Mitch McGary is a player many expect to be in the conversation for All-America honors while also making the Wolverines one of the biggest threats to preseason favorite Michigan State in the Big Ten. Only one problem, however: McGary’s yet to play this season due to a lower back injury. As a result there have been many questions as to when McGary will be able to return to the floor, with head coach John Beilein unable to provide a concrete timetable.

During a teleconference for next week’s Puerto Rico Tip-Off the question was asked yet again, and while Beilein still didn’t have an actual date for McGary’s return he did note that “it will probably happen very quickly.”

“We’re waiting for McGary’s return,” Beilein said. “Still do not know when it’s going to be, when it will happen. It will probably happen very quickly, and we are just waiting to make sure that everything is right for him to return.”

So what defines “very quickly”? U-M plays at Iowa State on Sunday, then opens against Long Beach State in Puerto Rico a week from today in the tournament which spans three games in four days.

Sunday’s game against Iowa State features two injury questions of high importance, with the Wolverines and Cyclones unsure of the status of McGary and All-Big 12 forward Melvin Ejim, respectively. But in the case of McGary lower back issues can be tricky, and the prospect of playing three games in four days in Puerto Rico could prove to be problematic for someone who’s yet to see game action this season.

McGary’s return to the lineup would obviously help Michigan, as he’d join veterans Jon Horford and Jordan Morgan and give the Wolverines another talented body in their front court rotation. But not if the big man isn’t back to full strength. So while the wait may be difficult for all involved, if more rest is what’s required to make sure that McGary’s ready for the physical challenges that Big Ten play presents then so be it.

Because for as valuable as McGary would be for the Wolverines’ upcoming tests, it does neither he nor the program any good if it comes at the expense of McGary’s availability during conference and postseason play.

Gonzaga’s NCAA tournament chances take a major blow in loss to No. 16 SMU

SMU guard Nic Moore (11) shoots over Gonzaga forward Kyle Wiltjer (33) during the first half of an NCAA college basketball game, Saturday, Feb. 13, 2016, in Dallas. (AP Photo/Jim Cowsert)
(AP Photo/Jim Cowsert)
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Nic Moore scored 18 of his 25 points in the second half and added 11 assists as No. 16 SMU knocked off Gonzaga in Moody Coliseum on Saturday night, 69-60.

The Zags got 20 points and 16 boards from Domantas Sabonis, but Kyle Wiltjer scored just four points and shot 2-for-17 from the floor.

It wasn’t pretty.

And it may have been the end of Gonzaga’s NCAA tournament hopes.

Entering Saturday, the Zags had an RPI in the mid-60s, enough to keep them in the bubble conversation but not enough to make them anything more than a team that will be projected to end up on the cut-line.

The issue is a complete lack of quality wins on their résumé. Gonzaga beat UConn in the Bahamas. That’s a borderline top 50 win. They beat Washington, another borderline top 50 win. Beyond that? They swept Pepperdine, beat Tennessee and own a win over Montana. None of those are top 100 wins, and that’s why the SMU game was such a big deal. The Mustangs are a top 25 team. This was a road game. This win was the kind of thing that the Zags could pin at the top of their profile.

But Wiltjer didn’t show up, the Zags had no answer for Moore and they’ll head back to Spokane needing, in all likelihood, to win the WCC’s automatic bid if they want to dance.

POSTERIZED: Cal’s Jaylen Brown has his dunk contest entry

California's Jaylen Brown lays up a shot against Oregon State in the second half of an NCAA college basketball game Saturday, Feb. 13, 2016, in Berkeley, Calif. (AP Photo/Ben Margot)
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Cal picked up a big win over Oregon State in Haas Pavilion on Saturday night, and the exclamation point was this emphatic dunk from Jaylen Brown: