So, Alex Len Might Actually Not Be Able to Play Against Duke After All

Yesterday, Mark Turgeon sounded certain that Alex Len would be able to play on Wednesday despite an ankle injury that pulled him out of the Temple game last Saturday. Today? Eh, not so much.

"I don't know yet. He did not practice yesterday. He is going to give it a shot today; he's still sore. We'll know more after practice today of where we are with Alex. Obviously we need him, we need his length and fouls for tomorrow night. I'm hoping, I'd hate for him to miss this game because every time our young kids can play in a big game, which every game is a big game, but an environment like tomorrow night helps us for the future."

Now, in fairness, the question was on whether or not he thought Len could play serious minutes, not at all, so that might be why he sounds so skeptical. But then he goes on and starts talking about how he'd hate for him to miss the game entirely, and ... yeah, it sounds like that's a possibility.

If nothing else, I think we can downgrade the best-case scenario from "normal Alex Len" to "hobbled Alex Len who won't play major minutes and will likely have limited effectiveness." Going up against two athletic 6-10 Plumlees, that's not a good sign.

And with that, it's time to consider what happens if Len is ineffective, unable to play major minutes, or worst of all can't go at all. Interestingly enough, I think there are different answers for all three, though obviously they're all similar.

If he's merely ineffective compared to regular Len, he's still a massive asset just in his size and, as Turgeon said, the five fouls he can provide. In that instance, if he's good to go 25 minutes even at a cut-rate effectiveness level, he'll still be a huge presence. It's a question of degrees, of course, but a hobbled Len would likely be better than a full-force Berend Weijs or Spencer Barks.

More problematic is what happens if he can only go, say, 15 minutes or so. Turgeon has in the past been a substitutions sensei - remember the Puerto Rico trip? - and though he's had less reason to do it recently, you have to wonder if the ability to get Len in during the best situations (which I'd guess would be on defense when there are two Plumlees on the floor) is still there. Juggling it will be critical.

When he's not on the floor, or if he can't go at all, how much four-guard will Maryland go? They obviously won't do it the entire time, but when Len couldn't go in the second half of the Temple game, Berend Weijs didn't get on the floor, either. I find it tough to believe they'll suddenly lean on him to provide major minutes. Problem is, if he doesn't, who else does? Do you really want Sean Mosley guarding one of the Plumlees?

(Solution: Mychal Parker on Ryan Kelly. It's on.)

With any luck, Len will be fine and able to go 25 or 30 minutes at a high level. If he can't, this just got a good bit stickier.

Update: Lo and behold, literally seconds after posting I see this tweet from Chris Eckard, who says Len was indeed able to go today and will play tomorrow. So that answers one question.

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