In the months leading up to the 2020-’21 college basketball season, BTPowerhouse will be releasing a new series called the ‘BTPowerhouse 25,’ which features the Top 25 players in the Big Ten as voted by members of the staff. All players set to be on Big Ten rosters for next season were eligible during the staff vote with their top selection receiving 25 points and their 25th and final selection receiving 1 point.
Today's edition will take a brief look at Franz Wagner of the Michigan Wolverines, who ended up at No. 5 in our preseason player rankings. The Wolverines enter Juwan Howard’s second season hoping to make progress on last year’s solid start. Wagner was one of the team’s best players last season and one of its most proven returners. Fans are hoping he can take another step forward this season.
'BTPowerhouse 25' - No. 5 Franz Wagner:
- Eligibility: Sophomore
- Career Totals: 27 games, 831 minutes, 312 points, 151 rebounds, 27 assists
- 2019-’20 Averages: 30.8 min, 11.6 pts, 5.6 rebs, 1.0 asts, 0.6 blks, 1.3 stls
- Positional Role: Small Forward
Nobody was quite sure what to expect in Howard’s first season in Ann Arbor. However, the early results were encouraging. Michigan finished the season 19-12 overall and ranked 16th nationally on KenPom. The Wolverines were relevant nationally and were in position to do some damage in March before the world was flipped upside down. Wagner figures to be one of the best players on the team as Michigan attempts to build on last year.
Wagner’s greatest strength is his diversity on the court. He was Michigan’s Swiss Army knife last year, contributing in all kinds of different ways. Wagner was an efficient scorer on limited possessions, cleaned up on the boards, defended relatively well, and hit enough from deep to keep defenses honest.
And Wagner’s skill set wasn’t static last year, either. He took significant steps forward in his shot selection, defensive understanding, and in the paint. And that shouldn’t be surprising. After all, Wagner was just a freshman last year. If he continues ascending, he could be one of the league’s most productive players.
-Areas for Improvement
If there’s one area where Wagner underwhelmed last season, it was his passing. Good defenses were able to take advantage of his inability to pass out of the post last year and it really slowed down Michigan’s offense. Taking steps forward here is where Wagner can improve the most. If he can open up teammates with his drives to the hoop, it will do wonders for the team’s productivity.
Wagner could also improve his consistency from deep. He had some stellar games from three last season, but finished with relatively underwhelming numbers, hitting 31.1 percent from three-point range. A lot of that resulted from him forcing shots. But if Wagner can even bump that up to 35 or 36 percent, it will boost the team’s offense significantly.
Wagner projects to be a really reliable and productive player for the Wolverines this season. He’s going to contribute in different ways and bring a lot of energy on the floor. And for him, even some modest improvement will pay off handsomely for the Wolverines. A little better shooting here, or a rebound there and Michigan’s going to win a few more games. It’s the nature of having a player with Wagner’s skill set.
Expect Wagner to be in the All-Big Ten discussion at season’s end. Whether he can make the first team will depend on his shooting and assist numbers.
'BTPowerhouse 25' Rankings:
- #27-28 - Players That Just Missed The Cut
- #25 - Adam Miller (Illinois)
- #25 - Miller Kopp (Northwestern)
- #22 - Ron Harper (Rutgers)
- #22 - Eric Hunter (Purdue)
- #22 - CJ Fredrick (Iowa)
- #21 - Rob Phinisee (Indiana)
- #20 - Khristian Lander (Indiana)
- #19 - Seth Towns (Ohio State)
- #17 - Nate Reuvers (Wisconsin)
- #17 - Mark “Rocket” Watts (Michigan State)
- #16 - Micah Potter (Wisconsin)
- #15 - Marcus Carr (Minnesota)
- #14 - Joey Hauser (Michigan State)
- #13 - Jordan Bohannon (Iowa)
- #12 - Geo Baker (Rutgers)
- #11 - D’Mitrik Trice (Wisconsin)
- #10 - Aaron Wiggins (Maryland)
- #9 - Aaron Henry (Michigan State)
- #7 - Trevion Williams (Purdue)
- #7 - Isaiah Livers (Michigan)
- #6 - Joe Wieskamp (Iowa)
- #5 - Franz Wagner (Michigan)
- #4 - To be continued . . .