Mitch McGary will miss season opener, timeline still uncertain

Michigan 117, Concordia 44-22Michigan still doesn’t know when it will have its All-American big man back in the lineup. The one thing we do know: Mitch McGary will not be playing in tomorrow night’s regular-season opener against UMass Lowell. (Photo: Dustin Johnston)

“He’s not going to play (tomorrow), no,” John Beilein said during his press conference this afternoon. When asked about McGary’s progress, Beilein was predictably cagey.

“He’s progressing well,” Beilein said. “That’s the update. He’s really doing well. We’re cautiously just bringing him along slowly.”

McGary has been unable to practice with the team since the beginning of September due to what the team has called a “lower-back condition.” Since then, nearly every update about McGary’s health has been similar to the one Beilein offered this afternoon: he is progressing. He is doing well. We have no idea when he’ll be back.

But this morning, when Beilein was on the Huge Show, which is syndicated and broadcast across Michigan, he was asked about the possibility of sidelining McGary until the beginning of the Big Ten season.

Beilein stuck to the company line on McGary’s injury, noting that he’s “progressing really well and getting better every day” but did provide a slightly more detailed description on his thought process.

“His future is first and foremost and trying to make sure that when he is able to play, he’s able to play where he can help the team as well. There’s one thing of getting him in shape again and all the things that we saw once he met some of the criteria with his body weight and being in shape last year he became a really special player.”

When asked, Beilein said he wouldn’t have a problem shutting down McGary for the entirety of the non-conference season, “if it came to that.” When Mark Snyder of the Detroit Free Press tweeted out that update, ESPN’s Jeff Goodman had an interesting response.

There hasn’t been much out of the Michigan camp regarding McGary, so it’s safe to say this constitutes pretty big news. What does McGary possibly being out until conference play mean for Michigan? For one thing, it means the two-big possibility is not as readily available. With Jordan Morgan’s struggles at the four and Jon Horford playing the five, it probably won’t be something seen as often as it would be if McGary were slotted at the four.

“I think we want to keep the versatility to be able to do both of (the big and small lineups), and that’s the way it’ll be,” Beilein said. “It depends on who we’re playing. Our research tells us that you don’t play two bigs very much. Now we have to do what’s best for the team, as well. Waiting on Mitch has been the one thing that hasn’t allowed us to make a solid determination for the long run but for the immediate future, we have a plan.”

Beilein revealing the possibility that McGary might not see the court until the Big Ten season raises plenty of questions. But as of now, Michigan is still short on answers. Or if it does, it’s keeping it under wraps for the foreseeable future.

“We do have an idea of a timeline if it keeps progressing as positively as it is, but we’re just not going to share that right now,” Beilein said.

“Time will tell.”

  • Luke

    I really dont see us doing real well without McGary. To me, Horford and/or Morgan don’t have a strong enough rebounding presence to carry us. I hope he’s back soon

    • http://www.umhoops.com/ Dylan Burkhardt

      The recipe for success early on is going to be: our wing players are a lot better than yours, try to beat us. That’ll work against a lot of teams in non-conference play but it’s obviously not a permanent solution.

      Could it make the team better in the long run? Maybe but I’m not sure how much. Some experience for Jon Horford could be very nice, especially looking ahead to next season.

      • chronique

        Seriously though, what is wrong with his back? He’s not even practicing. The evasive, non-informative responses from Beilein, etc. are creeping me out. This might be worse than we think…

        • Kam

          it obviously isn’t good or he’d tell us

    • Nicholas Gowings

      I completely agree, Luke. We can get past the “Umass-Lowell” and “South Carolina State” teams without him, but a few losses heading into conference play wouldn’t surprise me if he doesn’t play until then.

      One thing is for sure, “@ Iowa State”, assuming that he does not return in time for that game, which at this point I do not suspect he will, should be a legitimate “barometer” for the team, sans McGary’s presence.

    • mikey_mac

      I actually think Horford alone is a fine rebounder. My concern is the rest of the team carrying their end and cleaning up boards properly. Remember, UM loves to have their bigs just box out, have a guard clean up and start a break. I’m not sure Walton, LeVert and Irvin have that mentality yet to mix it up. It took THJ a full season-plus to become a contributor on the glass.

      • Kam

        Caris per minute out rebounded Nik last year i think.. He is a better rebounder than Nik

    • FL Wolve

      We were the #1 team in the nation halfway through last year with McGary playing a minor role. Sure we lose Burke and Hardaway but we returned everybody else and added 2 stud freshmen in Walton and Irvin. Add in Levert’s dramatic improvement and we should still be a formidable team this season. Heck, wasn’t too long ago we won the Big 10 regular season title with Morgan as the starting center and this year’s team is significantly more talented.

      • Champswest

        In reality, we have also added Horford since he was injured much of last year.

    • Fresh

      considering jmo has started about 70 games and michigan has won a good majority of them and considering jmo is considered one of the best defenders in the big ten/country i think he can handle the 5 duties. mcgarys motor/offense is what will be missed, defensively and rebounding arent the issue. No big man can create offense and doesnt have anything close to the motor mitch has

  • Chris

    My question is why is JB n Co. being so secretive about McGarys return? What and why do they have to hide? JB you have a timeline? Well then come out with it already. The in house ducking and hiding seems to me as not good news.

    • http://www.umhoops.com/ Dylan Burkhardt

      Posted this on the forum:

      Mitch’s medical status is obviously connected to big some dollar signs. Backs are a tricky thing and I don’t think they are ever going to say exactly what it is. Obviously he’ll get looked at by medical teams during draft stuff but no point in publishing it now.

      • Kam

        exactly.. don’t want to hurt his draft stock

        • Nicholas Gowings

          Well, I would say that, but you have to look at the “added” distraction it may cause as well. We all know that the media are like “sharks who smell blood” ……it does no good to let them have full information: they will twist JB n co.’s words for their own interests anyway.

      • Chezaroo

        Starting to seriously wonder if we will see Mitch at all this year. There is undoubtedly more going on than we will truly ever know. If and when he ever does come back, what kind of impact will he have? Have no idea what the nature of his injury really is, but is it possible that JB will spend the whole year managing it and he will not be a significant contributor?

    • mikey_mac

      I would love to hear a timeline, but the reality is, a missed timeline hurts McGary’s draft stock probably more than no timeline does. And of course, “back issue” also sounds a lot better than “bulging disc.”

  • Chazer

    They’ve won a lot of games in the past 6 years with less talent….no worries! Guessing when a player heals and returns, especially a back injury, is a shot in the dark. It won’t matter either way…..when he returns we’ll be informed! Any word if these guys have insurance policies like loyds?

    Go Blue!

    • Nicholas Gowings

      Not sure the rules/regulations regarding when you are “insurable” in this instance, but I have to believe that those who are aware of their “next level” talent (McGary, Robinson, Wiggins, Parker, etc..) have sought expert opinions on this matter…(one and only hope, that is)

  • Rick Dunaway

    this is why i want the ncaa to let everybody to play in the ncaa tourament. its going to happen one day. ill be loving it when it dose happen. then ill be a bigger basketball fan than iam

    • Nicholas Gowings

      I don’t understand this logic, please elaborate.

      • Rick Dunaway

        becuse, you wont have to worrie if he came back or not . you would still make the ncaa turnament. i have allways said everybody should be in the turnament just like it is in hs basketball. let everyone in

        • serious

          Of all the theories I’ve heard on what to do with the NCAA tournament, this is by far the worst. And that is saying something.

        • Kam

          That is an awful idea LOL

        • MGoTweeter

          Putting every team in the tournament would not change anything except in name and that the small teams would have even less of a chance to make a sweet 16. Right now every team is basically in the tournament if you consider the conference tournaments. The smaller schools get a chance to play bad competition and get to the round of 64 before they have to play anyone of consequence. If everyone was in from the start, then the small schools would almost all be run out by the time the round of 64 came along.

  • Mattski

    I’m disappointed. Just want to see him playing in Michigan uni. While the playing time for Horford and Morgan is great, this is a different team with/without McGary. Oh, well.

    • mikey_mac

      Yeah, the number of games with McGary on the team are finite, so the more of them with him in uni, the better for him and us.
      Unfortunately, two months and counting of not practicing does not bode well for a return any time soon. Hope he’s truly recovering, and we’re not just getting lip service from JB.

  • Dr_ZC

    I do like that at all. If the injury is since last August, it would be 5 months till league play. This sounds like a serious injury to me, and coach does not want Mitch to be in the same situation as Jared Sullinger. I bet JB is trying to protect his draft stock as much as he can (Jared missed a few games because of his back, and that cost him a few spots). Sounds like a bulged or slipped disk to me, which the UM doctors are treating with a long rehabilitation rather than an operation, which can jeopardize his Season, and possibly his NBA chances.

  • Nicholas Gowings

    I am a little surprised this hasn’t been a topic of conversation, but here goes:

    The above article states that “McGary has been unable to practice with the team since the beginning of September….” When he comes back, sooner or later, where will his conditioning be? How “ready” will he be to play/compete/contribute? It is one thing to be ready to play from a health/injury standpoint, but to truly be effective, shouldn’t we postpone our expectations so that he can shake the proverbial rust?

    • geoffclarke

      Good question…I’m curious too. He won’t be in “game shape”, but I’m sure the doctors and trainers are doing what they can to keep him in the best shape while healing. I.e., not a lot of trips to Mr. Spots… :(

  • mistersuits

    Mitch McGary was 22 for 28 with 46 points and 28 rebounds, 4 steals and only 2 turnovers versus VCU and Kansas in the tournament last year.

    It’s safe to say that without him, we should be vastly lowering our expectations against marquee non-conference matchups (VCU, Georgetown, Duke, Arizona).

    And given that it took Mitch nearly all of last year to work back into form from an injury if he’s not practicing or playing until the conference schedule we should not be expecting him to be a world beater out of the gate there.

    All things being equal, it only really matters what this team does in March but it’s really tragic that this season will not be what it could have been with a healthy roster.

    • geoffclarke

      I’d say “unfortunate”, not “tragic”. And while my expectations are lower without McGary, they’re not vastly lower. We need Morgan and Horford to step up and play their best games against the best opponents.

  • arsenal926

    Glad Michigan is being as cautious as possible with Mitch’s back. While missing an extended period of time with back issues is far from ideal it’s much better than coming back too early and having to miss games sporadically throughout the season. (i.e Sullinger 2012)

  • a2sk

    I love McGary’s game and was thrilled with what he did in the tournament, but I guess I have been a fan too long to get too wrapped up in any one player’s condition. You play with the players you have, and Michigan has a lot of talent besides McGary. They are a different team without him, but the coaching staff and team will make adjustments whether he is playing or not, others will step up, and it is going to be a great season no matter what. I’ll see you at the games.

  • Troy

    McGary’s injury: what are the rumors? Any insider info?

    • geoffclarke

      My cousin’s best friend’s buddy, who is very close to the basketball pep band scene, said his girlfriend’s classmate, who knows one of the student managers, is hearing it’s a lower-back condition.

  • Ben

    McGary may redshirt ?

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