Michigan Basketball: How Concerning Is Mitch McGary's Back Condition?

Zach DirlamSenior Analyst IISeptember 30, 2013

Will a back injury ruin a potential breakout season for Mitch McGary?
Will a back injury ruin a potential breakout season for Mitch McGary?Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

The first Michigan basketball practice of the 2013-14 season should have been an exciting day for the Maize and Blue faithful. Instead, head coach John Beilein announced the star of the Wolverines' Final Four run, Mitch McGary, would be limited in practice due to a "lower back condition," as Mark Snyder of USA Today reported. McGary's status will be considered day-to-day until further notice.

Apparently, the rising sophomore has been battling the condition since the end of summer.

"(It’s been) day-to-day pretty much all fall," Beilein said, per Snyder. "Now we just move forward from there and are pretty hopeful it's gone before too long."

Buzz. Killed.

While the shocking news is nothing to panic about right now, it has now become the biggest storyline to monitor leading up to Michigan's season opener on Nov. 8. The point guard battle between Spike Albrecht and Derrick Walton is a close second.

However, a healthy McGary is much more important to the Wolverines than whoever earns the right to replace Trey Burke in the starting lineup. 

McGary became one of college basketball's biggest stars in last season's NCAA tournament.
McGary became one of college basketball's biggest stars in last season's NCAA tournament.Streeter Lecka/Getty Images

This is not an attempt to belittle what will be a pivotal competition at the 1. If McGary is not playing at full strength, though, it will put a significant amount of added pressure on the shoulders of Walton and Albrecht. 

The 6'10", 255-pounder proved how dynamic of a player he can be on a daily basis in last season's NCAA tournament. McGary averaged 15.3 points and 10.7 rebounds in the Wolverines' final six games of the 2012-13 campaign. Those are monster numbers. 

All that being said, is it time for Michigan fans to panic? Not quite. 

Unless the Chesterton, Indiana native is still limited in practices come November. Then it will be time to start worrying.  

Beilein and the Wolverines are doing the right thing by slow-playing McGary's injury. There is no point in rushing the USA Today Preseason All-American back. The first exhibition game is not until Oct. 29, so there is plenty of time to let this "condition" work itself out.

Hopefully, this will not have a negative affect on McGary's conditioning. The Brewster Academy alum struggled with dietary issues and limited workouts when he dealt with an ankle injury last fall. Those issues were why it took the former 4-star prospect until March to realize his full potential.

If McGary is misses any time, Michigan will likely have to go with a smaller lineup until he returns. This would force rising sophomore Glenn Robinson III to shift back to the 4, while Jordan Morgan and Jon Horford compete for a starting spot at center.

Neither is the scoring threat McGary represents. The two combined to average just 7.3 points per contest last season. Both would be effective high-ball screeners, but the Wolverines' offense would become over-reliant on knocking down jumpers and perimeter shots to win games.

Without McGary, Michigan is no longer the second- or third-best team in the Big Ten Conference. The Wolverines would likely fall behind Michigan State, Ohio State and possibly even Wisconsin in the league's hierarchy. This would lump the Maize and Blue in with Iowa and Indiana, two teams with question marks of their own. 

Again, it is anyone's guess how much longer McGary will be hampered by this lower back issue. All Michigan fans can do is hope this is no longer a talking point next month.


Follow me on Twitter @Zach_Dirlam.