As we enter the fall season and college football gets underway, college basketball is right around the corner. As always, to prepare you for the season, Land-Grant Holy Land will be publishing Big Ten Team Previews and Ohio State Basketball Player Previews, starting now with the Team Previews.
Team: Michigan Wolverines
Head coach: Juwan Howard, Fifth Season, 79-48 (46-31)
2022-23 record: 18-16 (11-9)
All-time record against Ohio State: 55-79
Returners: Jaelin Llewellyn, Tarris Reed, Dug McDaniel, Terrance Williams, Will Tschetter, Jace Howard, Youssef Khayat
Departures: Isaiah Barnes to Tulsa, Hunter Dickinson to Kansas, Gregg Glenn to Tulane, Jett Howard to the NBA draft, Kobe Bufkin to the NBA draft, Joey Baker
Newcomers: George Washington III, Nimari Burnett, Tray Jackson, Olivier Nkamhoua
It can be rough seas ahead when you lose your top three players on a team that did not make the NCAA tournament. Jett Howard and Kobe Bufkin were first-round picks in the 2023 NBA draft losing star center Hunter Dickinson to the consensus No. 1 preseason team in Kansas.
Now, those three stars are all gone, and the Wolverines will turn to Dug McDaniel, Tarris Reed, Jaelin Llewellyn, and some transfers to get the program back on track. Juwan Howard is a good coach and a solid recruiter, but if he misses the tournament in back-to-back seasons, the fans in Ann Arbor will start to become understandably impatient.
Dickinson, Howard, and Bufkin combined to average 46.7 points per game and 16.3 rebounds per game. They were the only three players to average double figures in scoring, and they averaged 14 or more points per game. They accounted for almost 60 percent of the production of the 2022-23 season, and that is from a team that was barely above .500.
Oliver Nkamhoua could be the x-factor for Michigan. The transfer from Tennessee was a late addition to the team and was a must-get for Howard and his staff. He is a versatile forward who can score at all three levels and rebound well, giving Michigan someone who can come in and start strong. Tray Jackson and Nimari Burnett are solid pieces, but they are not the star that Nkamhoua could be.
George Washington III is the only recruit the Wolverines have coming in. The former Ohio State commit is now heading to Ann Arbor and will look to help sure up the Wolverine’s depth behind Dug McDaniel and Jaelin Llewellyn.
Michigan salvaged a chance at a good season by adding the three players they added through the transfer portal, but all three will need to take a large step in order to help Michigan compete in the conference.
Right now, they do not seem to be a tournament team. The transfers are one thing, but with Llewellyn coming back from an ACL injury and all of the other returners having to step up into larger roles, particularly McDaniel and Reed.
McDaniel was thrown into a role he did not expect last season after Llewellyn was lost for the season in December, and in general, McDaniel played fairly well. Now, he is in a role where he knows exactly what he has to do along with Llewellyn.
Reed was a backup to Dickinson last season and gave the Wolverines good minutes when he was on the floor, but now they will need him to step up into a larger scoring role and become one of the top big men in the country.
It could be a long season for Michigan, but this team still has a lot of talent. The three transfers must all step into big roles immediately, and if Llewellyn comes back healthy, they can play their way into the tournament. A clean slate is not always a bad thing.