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UNLV forward Mike Moser returns to practice, but will he play Saturday?

Dec 27, 2012, 6:00 PM EDT

Mike Moser, Demetris Morant, Daquan Cook AP

That’s the question many UNLV fans are likely asking after hearing reports that Moser was a full go in practice on Wednesday for the first time since suffering a dislocated right elbow in a game at California on December 9.

But according to Taylor Bern of the Las Vegas Sun reported that it’s unlikely that the junior forward will be on the floor when the Runnin’ Rebels take on North Carolina in Chapel Hill, even adding that Moser said “no way” when asked about the possibility of playing against the Tar Heels.

“He’s worked hard with his rehab and we’ll just see,” UNLV coach Dave Rice said. “He’s day-to-day. He’s got a ways to go to be in game shape.”

After an immediate fear that the injury could sideline Moser for the remainder of the season the timeframe changed to four weeks, with a January 9 game against New Mexico working out to be exactly four weeks after the injury occurred.

But even with the allure of adding another talented player to the rotation in advance of Saturday’s tilt, does it benefit UNLV in the long run to have Moser return ahead of schedule?

Make no mistake about it Saturday’s game is big especially when looking at North Carolina’s resume, which features losses to Butler, Indiana and Texas with their best win arguably being a 78-63 win at Long Beach State on November 16.

But for UNLV, which has designs on winning the Mountain West and making noise in the NCAA tournament, does the reward of a non-conference victory outweigh the risk of a rusty Moser re-injuring his elbow?

Keep in mind that he’s also missed the win at Portland due to a hip injury, so in Moser’s case the more rest UNLV can get him the better at this point in time especially when considering Rice’s comment in regards to Moser not being in “game shape.”

With Anthony Bennett playing as well as he has and Khem Birch coming off of his best game at the collegiate level (20 points, eight rebounds and six blocked shots in a win over Canisius) UNLV doesn’t lack for options in the front court (Carlos Lopez-Sosa and Quintrell Thomas also factor into the rotation).

The excitement of Moser being able to participate in practice may lead some to hope that he plays on Saturday, but the prospects of what a full-strength UNLV team can achieve down the line is of more importance.

Raphielle also writes for the NBE Basketball Report and can be followed on Twitter at @raphiellej.

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