UM's Beilein weighs shutting down LeVert for season
Michigan coach John Beilein on Friday acknowledged for the first time the team is considering shutting down Caris LeVert for the rest of his senior season.
No decision has been made, and no decision is imminent.
But it's at least on the table, given the point in the season Michigan is at — with four crucial Big Ten games remaining, followed by a Big Ten tournament that could determine if the Wolverines (19-8, 9-5 Big Ten) get into the NCAA Tournament.
"Please print my words carefully," Beilein said. "We believed he had a temporary, we hope he had a temporary setback in that Purdue game, and that we're very optimistic that he will return. But there will be a time pretty soon where we may just have to shut it down, as well. But we don't know.
"And that's the way this has gone for a while now, and it's not his fault, and it's not our fault. It is tough to predict health and the science of health and the rehab of health."
LeVert, a player of the year candidate at the start of the season and still considered a potential first-round NBA draft pick, played in the Big Ten opener at Illinois on Dec. 30 and suffered a lower-left leg injury late in that game.
That caused him to miss the next 11 games, before returning for 11 first-half minutes in the 61-56 victory over then-No. 18 Purdue on Feb. 13 at Crisler Center.
Two days later, he met the media for the first time since suffering the injury, and was in good spirits — suggesting he was likely to keep playing in games.
But later that Monday, he couldn't practice, and he missed the 76-66 loss to Ohio State in his native Columbus on Tuesday.
"Not to see him out there the final games of his senior year is tough," Duncan Robinson said. "We all feel for him.
"When he can't play, if he's not going to play, we just try to pick up for him."
The nature of LeVert's injury isn't exactly known — LeVert and Beilein have decided to keep that out of the public — but he said there's been no procedure.
He missed much of last season, also with a left foot issue. The injury likely affected his decision to return for his senior season at Michigan.
Beilein said he and LeVert have talked for some time about the idea of shutting it down for the season.
It's just being made public now.
He's not expected to play at Maryland on Sunday, but he's not officially ruled out.
"We've been talking about that for a long time," Beilein said. "When you get into the last couple games and you have what's at stake for him, OK, I've got to advise him in the right ways. If he's not going to be at 100 percent, and risk further injury, that doesn't make a lot of sense.
"He'd like to play. He'd love to play."
Michigan has a grueling final four games of the regular season, starting with Maryland on Sunday, before traveling to Wisconsin next week and finishing at home against Iowa the following week. A home game against Northwestern is in the mix, too.
Fatigue, no doubt, is an issue for Michigan. With LeVert out and Michigan lacking depth, starters are having to rack up massive minutes.
And perhaps, it's starting to show, especially in Tuesday's lackluster loss to Ohio State.
So Beilein, this week, decided to give his players extended rest — and was stern in his orders.
"Forbidden to go to the gym (Thursday), Duncan Robinson and a few other guys forbidden to go get extra shots," Beilein said. "Stay off your feet and let's get ready for this next run that we have."
Robinson, the sophomore transfer from Division III Williams College who has struggled with his 3's much of Big Ten play, was given a specific warning from Beilein.
"I had to mandate Duncan Robinson was not going to make the trip to Maryland if I heard he was in the gym (Thursday)," Beilein said. "You need to take some time off."
By all accounts, Robinson obliged.
But Robinson shoots down the fatigue speculation.
"I don't necessarily feel worn down or beat up," he said. "I like to thing I'm young, 21 years old. It's a grind, season's a grind, but there's no excuses."
Big Ten intrigue
Michigan knows it's heading into a lion's cage with Sunday's game at Maryland.
The Terrapins, then ranked No. 3 in the country, lost to the Wolverines in Ann Arbor last month. On Thursday, Maryland amazingly lost to a Minnesota team that had been winless in the Big Ten and hadn't won since December.
"The Big Ten is as interesting as ever," Beilein said. "Expect the unexpected."
Big Ten co-leaders Indiana and Iowa have three conference losses, Maryland (22-5, 10-4) has four, and five others, including Michigan and Michigan State, have five.
Maryland was without big man Diamond Stone for Thursday's game against Minnesota, as he served a one-game suspension.
He's expected to be back on the floor to face Michigan.
Michigan at No. 6 Maryland
Tip-off: 1 p.m. Sunday, Xfinity Center, College Park, Md.
Records: Michigan 19-8, 9-5 Big Ten; Maryland 22-5, 10-4
Outlook: The Terrapins hadn't lost a home game since 2014, until falling to Wisconsin in College Park last week. ... In the first meeting, Michigan stunned then-No. 3 Maryland, 70-67, for one of the Wolverines' few signature wins of the season. ... Minnesota was 0-13 in the Big Ten before beating Maryland on Thursday.