Maintaining success has never been more difficult in college basketball. The combination of the transfer portal and the NBA Draft makes each offseason both eventful and potentially transformative for most programs.
Now that the smoke has mostly cleared following the 2021-22 season, we’ll go team-by-team in the Big Ten to assess which programs are set up for success, and who might take a step back.
Next up is Michigan. The Wolverines are coming off a largely disappointing 2021-22 season that saw them go from Big Ten preseason co-favorite and national top-10 selection, to the NCAA Tournament bubble. But they did reach the Sweet 16 with a pair of impressive March wins against Colorado State and Tennessee.
Head coach Juwan Howard enters his fourth season. He is 61-32 (.656) overall, and 35-22 (.614) in league play since taking over for John Beilein prior to the 2019-20 season.
- Eli Brooks (12.8 PPG),
- DeVante’ Jones (10.3 PPG),
- Caleb Houstan (10.1 PPG),
- Moussa Diabate (9.0 PPG),
- Zeb Jackson (3.3 PPG),
- Brandon Johns Jr., (3.2 PPG),
- Frankie Collins (2.8 PPG)
- Hunter Dickinson – C, (18.6 PPG),
- Terrance Williams II -SF, (4.7 PPG),
- Kobe Bufkin – SG, (3.0 PPG),
- Jace Howard – SF, (1.1 PPG),
- Isaiah Barnes – SF, (redshirt),
- Will Tschetter – PF, (redshirt)
- Jaelin Llewellyn – PG, (15.7 PPG at Princeton)
- Joey Baker – SG, (4.5 PPG at Duke)
Freshmen (Rankings from 247Sports Composite)
- Tarris Reed- PF/C, (No. 33),
- Jett Howard – SF, (No. 39),
- Dug McDaniel – PG, (No. 78),
- Gregg Glenn – PF (No. 116),
- Youssef Khayat – SF (Lebanon)
RETURNING MINUTES: 27.5 percent (per barttorvik.com)
WHY IT WILL WORK
Dickinson is a versatile inside/out big man with enough size and skill that you can reliably build a team around him. Michigan will focus much more on featuring Dickinson, especially on the low block where he shot better than 60 percent from 2-point range last season. Llewellyn will provide some playmaking and scoring production from the point guard spot, and Jett Howard and Terrance Williams will give the Wolverines both length and three-level scoring to complement Dickinson and Llewellyn. The result is a balanced attack complemented by some up-and-coming talent and a top-10 national recruiting class, all led by a coaching staff one year removed from a Big Ten title.
WHY IT WON’T
The Wolverines aren’t bringing in nearly enough to replace the loss of four starters. Llewellyn is going to be asked to be the point guard at Michigan but he’s never truly been that throughout his career. And much like DaVante Jones’ production didn’t translate from mid-major, Llewellyn cannot be relied upon as someone who can fill major production holes. The Wolverines only return 26 percent of their scoring from a 19-15 season, and there aren’t clear pieces to the puzzle who can come in and fill the void, especially on the wings. Depth is also a concern. The recruiting class is nice, but top freshman Reed overlaps with Dickinson, and with the possible exception of Jett Howard, the rest are likely not ready to produce meaningfully.
The Juwan Howard era of Michigan basketball is still a very much an unproven and uncertain product. Yes, there was the 23-5 Big Ten title during the fan-free 2020-21 season, but in his other two years Howard’s Wolverines have gone just 38-27 overall, and 21-19 in the league. Couple that with him slapping a Wisconsin coach in the face, a dance with an NBA coaching opportunity, and heavy roster turnover — and it isn’t clear which way this thing is headed. A third mediocre season in four tries would be an interesting turn in his at the moment still promising tenure.
BIG TEN OUTLOOK: Top third
(Update: The post-publishing addition of Duke transfer Joey Baker improves the outlook for the Wolverines)
MORE BIG TEN OUTLOOKS:
The Daily Hoosier –“Where Indiana fans assemble when they’re not at Assembly”