The look ahead continues today for BT Powerhouse as we take a look at the Michigan Wolverines and the questions around that program headed into the 2022-23 season.
How do you replace 10 players?
Just last Thursday I was posing the question of how do the Buckeyes replace nine players. So naturally the biggest question mark for rival Michigan is how to replace 10 (though only eight were scholarship players). Gone are Eli Brooks, Frankie Collins, Moussa Diabate, Caleb Houstan, Zeb Jackson, Brandon Johns Jr., DeVante’ Jones, and Adrien Nunez. That represents four of five starters, six of the eight highest scorers for the team, and six of the eight players posting the most minutes played.
However, returning will be Hunter Dickinson for his junior year after leading the Wolverines in ppg (18.6), rpg (8.6), field goal percentage (56.3), bpg (1.5), and was second in mpg (32.3). Terrance Williams II returns as well and was among the top eight in minutes and ppg last season for the Wolverines. The junior forward is the best returning three-point shooter for the program (53.3% over his final seven games) and is likely to be leaned on for more minutes and production this season.
Joey Baker will join Michigan this season as a transfer from Duke and is likely to earn a starting role or probably sixth man role after four seasons with the Blue Devils. Kobe Bufkin returns as well after sporadic playing time as a freshman last season. He will likely be relied upon in the guard role but needs to take a big leap on the defensive end while improving his three-point shooting (22.2%). However, Jaelin Llewellyn joins the program from Princeton as a grad transfer and is expected to take over the lead point guard role for the program.
Tarris Reed is the top-ranked recruit in the incoming class as the 6-foot-10 center was No. 33 in the nation per 247Sports. However, he will take a backup role behind Dickinson. Jett Howard at guard/forward will also likely see heavy minutes as a top-40 recruit with strong perimeter shooting, something the Wolverines lack. Youssef Khayat at forward joins a long list of recent highly-lauded international recruits to the forward position as well.
The question will be how all those pieces fit together, though, as an almost entirely new team this upcoming season.
What does success look like in 2022-23?
The schedule and how a program can define success with it has been a main theme of this series. It will remain one with Michigan, but frankly there is very little to say on it as a large part of the Wolverines’ schedule is not year announced for the season. However, there are a number of games that have been announced and pose a difficult road in the non-conference. Unclear is the opponent in the Legends Classic as the bracket is not yet released, but includes Arizona State, Pittsburgh, and VCU. None are a particularly steep challenge, however.
Virginia will be a tough test for Michigan in the ACC/Big Ten Challenge, but the game is in Ann Arbor. A game in London against Kentucky is set for Dec. 4, and North Carolina on a neutral court in Charlotte, NC is set for Dec. 21.
As for Big Ten play, home matchups against Ohio State and Purdue give a distinct advantage. Away games at Illinois, Iowa, and Rutgers are all a challenge but avoid some of the toughest road venues in the league. Finally, Indiana, Michigan State, and Wisconsin are the most challenging home and away matchups.
With a schedule like that, Michigan should be hard pressed to find itself on the bubble come March the way the team was this past season. There are three likely losses on the non-conference schedule as it stands now and a manageable Big Ten schedule. Should Michigan find itself on the outside looking in, there are some tough questions to be asking this staff short of injury issues. As for Big Ten action, UM should likely be expecting a stronger finish in a weaker Big Ten than the tie for seventh of last season. With so many new faces, another Big Ten title like in the 2020-21 season is aiming too high with a rebuilt roster, but success should certainly look better than a finish in the bottom half of the Big Ten.
Where is Juwan Howard’s trajectory heading in year four?
First off, Juwan Howard is on a hot seat with the national media and the Big Ten office regardless of his team’s on-court success (or potential lack thereof). He has now had unacceptable antics against two fellow Big Ten programs in three seasons as head of the Michigan program and his poor excuses for why he acted in the manner he did goes nowhere with anyone but the most diehard of Wolverine faithful.
With that said, will Howard act in a composed and restrained manner the likes of which every other head coach not named Bobby Knight has managed to do so for decades while pacing the sideline? If he doesn’t, then it is highly unlikely he gets a year five should he have a repeat of his comments to former Maryland head coach Mark Turgeon or with the Wisconsin program this past season that resulted in a suspension.
Further, where is his career headed in terms of results? Howard has posted some truly amazing recruiting classes in his first three seasons at the helm in Ann Arbor. However, the performance on the court has been hit and miss. His first season the team went just 19-12 and finished No. 9 in the Big Ten standings. 2020 saw the Wolverines earn a controversial Big Ten regular season title and advance through a weaker East field before falling in the Elite 8 to UCLA. Then in his third season his team once again posted just a 19 win record with a tie with MSU for No. 7 in the league standings (No. 8 seed) before bowing out in the first matchup for the team in the Big Ten Tournament.
With the talent Howard has brought in, his performance, particularly in Big Ten action, has been underachieving to date. His career is also just getting started. With the early struggles of Covid in his second season and the NCAA Tournament being cancelled that year as well, there is plenty left to show by Howard in tracking the trajectory of his tenure. However, to date there may be a bit more pressure on him in terms of Big Ten action. With the recruiting he posts, finishes in the top-five or higher should be the expected norm rather than the bottom half he has averaged thus far.