Team: Michigan Wolverines
Coach: Juwan Howard
2021-22 record: 19-15 (11-9)
Season finish: NCAA Tournament Sweet 16
Players returning: Hunter Dickinson, Terrance Williams II, Kobe Bufkin, Isaiah Barnes, Jace Howard, Will Tschetter
Players departed: Eli Brooks, De’Vante Jones, Moussa Diabate, Caleb Houstan, Zeb Jackson (VCU), Brandon Johns Jr. (VCU), Frankie Collins (Arizona State)
Key additions: Tarris Reed, Jett Howard, Dug McDaniel, Gregg Glenn, Jaelin Llewellyn (Princeton), Joey Baker (Duke), Youssef Khayat
It cannot be overlooked how many impact guys the Wolverines lost this offseason. Promising freshmen Moussa Diabate and Caleb Houstan left for the NBA, De’Vante Jones and Eli Brooks ran out of eligibility, Zeb Jackson and Brandon Johns Jr. are both heading to VCU, and young point guard Frankie Collins is off to the West Coast and Arizona State. Luckily for them, they did get a surprise return from their star Hunter Dickinson, who was expected to go to the NBA but decided to stay one more year at Michigan.
“My role has definitely changed a lot over my three years,” Dickinson said at Michigan media days. “I came in as a freshman who just wanted to be a sponge and soak up all the information from my older teammates since we were a really experienced team my freshman year.”
“Now that I’m a junior — now that I’m a leader for the team in some ways, I’m somebody that the younger guys look to for advice,” Dickinson added. “Thankfully, I got guys like Jace (Howard) and T-Will who have been here and know the system, but I also got guys like Jaelin and Joey (Baker) who are super old — they bring a lot of great experience and leadership. Jaelin and Joey have played a lot of college games, so they have a lot of experience that the younger guys will be able to look forward to and ask for help.”
Dickinson averaged 14.1 points and 7.4 rebounds per game his freshman season, and 18.6 points with 8.6 boards per game last season. Now as junior, he will look to fulfill his role of one of the top players in the conference and possibly the country.
Joey Baker, a transfer from Duke, is a very interesting addition to the team. Baker is an elite shooter who never cracked the rotation at Duke, but can be productive and provide the role of sharpshooter off the bench for Michigan. Jaelin Llewellyn is their starting point guard, a transfer from Princeton, and they are bringing in a top 10 elite recruiting class.
Kobe Bufkin and Terrance Williams II will likely round out the starting lineup, and will both need to take significant jumps in production in their new roles, especially Bufkin, as he enters his second season.
Llewellyn is coming into Michigan from Princeton, where he averaged 15.7 points last season and 14 points per game over his three year career. He also proved he is a solid rebounder, averaging a modest 4.1 rebounds last season and 3.8 for his career.
“It’s been a smooth transition,” Llewellyn said at Michigan’s media day. “I’ve played a lot of college basketball and basically I’ve been trying to get the flow of the offense and figure out how to gel with the guys on the team, and I think that it’s pretty smooth so far. Definitely playing overseas helped us because it gave me the chance to get out the first-time jitters of playing with a new team and stuff like that, but I think I’m fitting in well.”
A huge part of the Wolverines’ season will be the relationship between Llewellyn and Dickinson, which so far seems to be going well.
“I think Jaelin has been a real down to earth guy,” Dickinson told SB Nation. “From his visit, I feel like it was somebody that I think we could gel well with. Somebody that is just down to earth and really approachable. Somebody that I really enjoy hanging out with off the court, I think that’s something that’s really big. Hanging out off the court with him makes it easier to play on the court with him.”
A solid point guard is a necessity to win in the Big Ten, and Llewellyn is exactly that for Juwan Howard and Michigan.
I think Michigan will be Indiana’s biggest contender in the Big Ten for the regular season title. Illinois will also be right there, but I like the way this Wolverine team is constructed, and Hunter Dickinson is probably the best individual player in the conference.
Bringing in Llewellyn was huge for the Wolverines because he is a guy that will step right in and run the point guard. Michigan is in a similar boat as Ohio State, as they will need production from their fantastic incoming freshman class. Jett Howard, Dug McDaniel and Tarris Reed are all top-100 recruits in the Wolverines No. 10 overall ranked 2022 class.
They will need steady and immediate production from all of them, especially Howard, who will likely be a starter for the Wolverines. Reed is a plug and play player, and McDaniel hails from Paul IV Catholic high school in Fairfax, Virginia, which has produced the likes of Jeremy Roach, Josh Reaves, VJ King and Aaron Thompson.