It was quite the past couple years for Michigan Basketball and Juwan Howard. Coming off an overwhelming success of a first full year for Howard in which his team was a Franz Wagner three away from reaching the Final Four, to his team the following year being preseason Top-10 and barely sneaking into the tournament. They were miraculously able to once again reach the Sweet 16 before falling to Villanova, but that doesn’t entirely excuse last seasons struggles. The Wolverines didn’t sniff a Big Ten Championship or tournament title after coming into the year with sky high expectations.
However those seasons are now in the past and we must look ahead to the next and see how the team will look after quite the offseason.
Who the Wolverine’s lost
Juwan Howard is no stranger to substantial roster changes, with last year’s team losing four key pieces to the NBA and multiple players in the year before that. Even so, this year’s losses may take the cake with the team losing six of its eight rotation players, leaving only Terrance Williams II and Hunter Dickinson. With Caleb Houstan and Moussa Diabate recently joining Eli Brooks and Devante Jones in their pursuits toward the NBA, the Wolverines lose two senior guards and two five stars from their starting lineup. Additionally, the Wolverines lost backup guard Frankie Collins and senior Brandon Johns Jr. to the transfer portal, where they will play for Arizona State and VCU respectively .
Any semblance of John Beilein’s recruiting classes has vanished, and the team will be without a senior on next years roster. Three out of the four of Michigan’s top 50 recruits from last year are gone, and it doesn’t take an analyst to tell you that Michigan losing over 75% of their scoring doesn’t help their chances. Yet, fortunately for Wolverine fans, Howard has brought in a plethora of new players to fill their roles.
For the third year in a row Howard has brought in another grad transfer guard from outside of the power 5 to run the offense (the first two being Mike Smith and Devante Jones). Jaelin Llewellyn is the next in line for Michigan and averaged over 15 PPG in his past two seasons for Princeton. Llewellyn shot 38.6 percent from behind the arc last season, and given his 6’2 height and 78 inch wingspan, he will be the tallest PG of Howard’s tenure.
The Grad Student was above average in the pick and roll at Princeton with an undersized center, and should only improve with Dickinson setting him screens. The jump from the Ivy league to the Big Ten is obviously a big one, however with Llewellyn’s frame and scoring ability paired with Michigan’s need for a PG, he should be a day one starter in Ann Arbor.
The more recent transfer for the Wolverines comes from Durham in Joey Baker, who will bring much needed shooting. The former five-star reclassified to join the Blue Devils a year early, only for Coach K to play him a grand total of 18 minutes which stripped his redshirt. Still, Covid has given Baker a fifth year of eligibility where he has decided to join the Wolverines.
Baker never averaged more than 12.1 minutes a game at Duke, however with a 40.5 three point percentage last year, there will definitely be a role for him on a Wolverine team that was in desperate need of shooters a year ago. His defensive ability is a cause for concern, but his experience and outside shooting alone should land him an important role for the Wolverines.
The Wolverine’s recruiting class
Coach Howard will bring his second straight top 10 recruiting class to Michigan with four four-star recruits across every position, who could have large roles right away. A player not listed here is a potential prospect thats a 6’10 wing from Lebanon named Youseff Khayat, who has the Wolverines in his top 4 but hasn’t yet committed.
Greg Glenn III
The only player outside of the top 100 this year for Juwan is 6’7 220 pound state champion Greg Glenn III out of Fort Lauderdale, Florida. Glenn’s jump shot is unpolished and he can be a non-factor off the ball, so he is definitely more of a project. However, Glenn’s size paired with his ball handling could make him a matchup nightmare in the Big Ten. He has the tools to be a phenomenal player at Michigan and possibly at the next level, however given the holes in his game expect Glenn to be outside of the rotation as he further develops.
Then there’s 5’9 Dug McDaniel, who has the potential to be a fan favorite for the Wolverines. Obviously his biggest weakness is his size, but his change of pace accompanied with his speed gives him the tools to be great with the ball in his hands. As an on-ball defender his motor and energy is seemingly contagious and is sure to get the crowd fired up. He’s not gonna be your primary scorer, but his defense and distributing skills should allow him to get minutes off the bench next season.
Next, the Wolverines bring in Michigan’s highest ranked recruit according to ESPN (31st overall) in 6’9 Tarris Reed. He’s got a polished game for a high school big man, with a plethora of post moves and an impressive jump shot. Although he’s not gonna wow you with his athleticism, he is still a solid rim protector who runs the floor. The departure of Brandon Johns Jr. and Moussa Diabate means Reed should be in the rotation and possibly the starting lineup.
Finally, there’s 6’7 IMG Academy wing Jett Howard, who joins his brother Jace and his dad Juwan. The current 41st ESPN recruit is most known as an outside shooter, although he can score on all three levels and handle the ball when needed. He is one of the best pure shooters in his class, as he’s excellent on-and-off the ball in a variety of situations. With the departure of Caleb Houstan and Eli Brooks, Jett Howard has a real shot to be a day one starter.
The Wolverine’s schedule
The roster for next year is essentially known, so we can move to the Wolverine’s nearly finalized schedule. The Wolverine’s non-conference opponents in 2022-23 will once again be tough, with early tests against historical dominant programs from the jump.
After a European preseason tour, the Wolverines will compete in the legends classic with the likes of Arizona State, Pittsburgh and VCU. After that, they’ll travel to London to face Kentucky and and to Charlotte to face Tar Heels all before the new year. There will likely be other tournament caliber teams on the Wolverines schedule before Big Ten play, so expect quite a few struggles early on for this young Wolverine team.
These struggles may prove to be beneficial for their underclassmen, as they will make the adjustment to conference opponents a bit less shaky. This, compiled with the fact that the Big Ten is much less top heavy than in years past, means Michigan shouldn’t get blown out as frequently as this past season.
Expectations for the Wolverines
In 2022-23 I expect Michigan to exceed national expectations but falling short of a Big Ten Title or Final Four birth. I may be higher on the Wolverine team than I have any business being, considering this year’s team clear flaws; But the beauty of college basketball is its randomness, and the lack of expectations surrounding Michigan will benefit them. The team will only go as far as Llewellyn takes them, which puts a lot of weight on the transfer, but Howard’s resume with transfer guards gives me no reason to doubt him.
The Wolverines next season will be far from pretty, putting their floor at a sub .500 team. However, a player like Dickson surrounded by an abundance of talented and unproven players puts their ceiling as high as anybody in the Big Ten. Realistically, they’ll likely fall somewhere in the middle, finishing in the 4-6 range in the conference and as an 7 or 8 seed come March.
The spotlight will follow Howard and the Wolverines for each game next year from opening tip through the handshake line. So strap in for a roller coaster of a season, as many new players become household names throughout Ann Arbor.