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.