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Big Ten Off-Season Snapshot: Michigan

With college basketball right around the corner lets take a deep dive into what changed, and what stayed the same.
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With college basketball looking as though it will happen, regardless of the current COVID-19 projections, it’s time we get back into Big Ten season previews. 

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The previous three covered were Michigan State, Ohio State, and Maryland. All three teams look primed for decent years, so if you have not checked out any of those previous articles feel free to do so.

There will be a new look to the Big Ten previews, they won’t be as audacious as before. Instead, it will be more of a perusal into what has changed for each team, and what has remained the same with the hopes of giving you insight into what to expect. Now without further introduction, let’s get into the University of Michigan Wolverines.

The Projected Starters 

 

Eli Brooks

What he brings to the table for Michigan is a score-first mentality and aggression on the offensive end, that the team will need heading into Juwan Howard’s second year at the helm. He also offers a great punch at the guard spot. Last season he average 10 points per game, 3.7 rebounds, and 2 assists per game. He shot the ball at a 41 percent clip and a 36 percent clip from the three. As an offensive creator, Brooks is still limited, but he adds experience to a Michigan team that will be banking on him to be more involved within the offense. 

Mike Smith

Comes to Michigan after four years at Columbia playing in the Ivy League. He gives Michigan a much-needed scoring boost at the guard position. In his last season at Columbia, he averaged 22 points per game, 4.5 assist, and 4.1 rebounds. He fills up the stat sheet. His experience is going to be essential, as he’ll be looked at as a leader on this team. Smith brings the consistency that was lost after Isaiah Livers got hurt in the 2019-20 season. 

Austin Davis

Brings size and physicality to Michigan’s starting five. At 6’10” he brings a presence to the front-court that when he is off the floor Michigan doesn’t have. His career splits aren’t impressive,  5.0 points per game and 3 rebounds, but Michigan with him on the floor is a more complete team. 

Franz Wagner

Is a 6’8” guard who, last season, gave Michigan 11 points per game and 6 rebounds. He sits in a position primed for a breakout year. And with his size coupled with his handle, he poses a threat as a mismatch nightmare. He will be able to dominate smaller guards on the perimeter–shooting over them and getting to his preferred spots on the floor. While on defense, he’ll be able to match up with longer wings. He is oozing potential as the third guard on the floor for Howard and his team. 

Isaiah Livers

Is everything for Michigan. His presence on the floor changes the team’s dynamic regardless of the other four players around him. On the floor he is explosive off the dribble, he can finish at the rim, and he is a serviceable shooter. What he offers Michigan is an All-Big Ten level player, and he has a good chance at being the player of the year in the conference in the 2020-21 season. 

The Key Reserves

 

Brandon Johns Jr. comes into this season as a proven shooter. Last season he offered Michigan consistency from outside the arc all season. Look for him to continue contributing in that way, and he might see an increased role on the team depending on how everything shakes out. 

Hunter Dickinson brings a lot of hype to Ann Arbor. At 7’2” he was a great defender and rim protector in highschool, the hope is that he brings that to Michigan. He is also a very skilled offensive player when he gets around the rim–perfect for the pick and roll game Howard loves to run. Look for him to be a player who competes nightly and a building block for the future of the program. 

The Season’s Outlook

With a year of coaching under Juwan Howard’s belt, things should be pointing up for Michigan. However, don’t expect them to make a huge leap in the Big Ten, as opposed to last season. They have the pieces to put together a good team, but Howard hasn’t proven as a coach that he can win games that matter down the stretch. 

The most important aspect of this year is keeping Livers healthy. If Michigan can do that, they will be a very competitive team in one of the best leagues in college basketball. The future is bright, but the question now is can the University of Michigan live up to their own expectations? 

We will just have to wait and see.