For the past month-plus, Michigan fans have waited patiently -- well, most have -- for Caris LeVert to return to the hardwood. In the second half against Illinois in U-M's Big Ten opener on December 30th, LeVert appeared to twist his left foot when he stepped on the foot of an Illini player. LeVert finished that game but did not appear in the nine thereafter, sitting out with what John Beilein and Michigan have classified only as a "lower left leg" injury. Further, Beilein opted not to reveal a timeline for LeVert's return, leaving many to speculate as to if he would play again this season.
There are signs that tomorrow could be the day that we get an answer.
Beilein has been asked about LeVert's status each time he has met with the media, and he has made it clear that he didn't want to rush LeVert back too soon. He wanted to wait until LeVert was 100-percent healthy and able to practice two or three straight days without any pain. Last Saturday after Michigan's win against Penn State at Madison Square Garden, Beilein said that "there's a chance" that LeVert is back this week and then added at a Monday presser that he made great progress in Sunday's practice.
Of course, LeVert missed the Indiana game on Tuesday, but he's now had three consecutive days to prepare for Saturday's rivalry showdown against #10 Michigan State. Beilein didn't give a firm update to the press on Friday afternoon but did say this:
"[LeVert] practiced yesterday more than he has practiced," Beilein said Friday. "So he's going to more today than he did yesterday. We'll see what happens."
When these little hints are pieced together, it raises hope among the Michigan faithful that their senior star will be back for the most important home game of the season. And, if those fans want more hope, The Michigan Daily's Simon Kaufman just tweeted this:
According to a few people who have talked with LeVert, he said he will most likely be back for tomorrow's game against Michigan State.— Simon Kaufman (@sjkauf) February 5, 2016
Again, this isn't concrete. There's no guarantee LeVert will back. But there are signs.
Even if LeVert does make his return tomorrow, don't expect him to play his usual starting minutes. Beilein was asked about this on Friday and had this response:
Asked how many minutes LeVert will play in his first game back, Beilein responded,"It will be very minimal, I would think. I can't put a number on that one. I think it would depend on him, a lot. It's been five-and-a-half weeks. When he's out there running and doing some of the drills, you can see he's winded very quickly. So we're going to make sure we take our time with him because we want him at his best at the end of the season and we want him at his best after the season."
Nonetheless, having LeVert back would be a big boost for Michigan. The senior has averaged 17.6 PPG, 5.4 RPG, and 5.2 APG, while posting the fifth-best offensive rating (129.1) in the country among all players with a usage rate of at least 20 percent. His offensive ability, whether it's knocking down tough shots from the perimeter or getting to the rim, would be much needed for a Michigan team that uncharacteristically has had shooting woes lately and will face a MSU squad with the nation's best shooting defense.
Beilein also has said the public will know LeVert is back when he's in pregame warmups.
Given the signs, don't be too surprised if LeVert is the on the floor before tomorrow's tip.