MINNEAPOLIS — This season’s Michigan men’s basketball team isn’t the team of old.
Gone are the household names in Ann Arbor, like Eli Brooks, DeVante’ Jones, Caleb Houston and Moussa Diabate. The only returning starter is junior center Hunter Dickinson, and there are no seniors left on the team, either. But even with nine new players on the roster — and a number of pressing questions about the Wolverines’ upcoming season — Michigan is unconcerned.
“I feel like people think we have a lot of question marks around our team,” Dickinson said Tuesday at Big Ten Media Days. “We got some transfers that are gonna come in and some freshmen that are gonna come in and play a lot of minutes. … I definitely think we’re being underrated, but I think that’s fine for us.”
Across the board, nobody knows what to make of the Wolverines. Their nine new players are all virtually unknown.
First are the five new freshmen, players who have yet to be tested in a collegiate setting. Among them are four-star big man Tarris Reed and four-star guard Jett Howard, the 35th and 42nd overall recruits in the 2022 class according to 247 Sports. A freshman with little digital footprint, forward Youssef Khayat, who hails from Lebanon, remains a mystery. Rounding out the bunch are guard Dug McDaniel and forward Gregg Glenn III, both of which were touted as great recruits, but have to prove they live up to the hype.
Michigan’s graduate transfers comprise another glaring question mark. Graduate guards Jaelin Llewellyn, from Princeton, and Joey Baker, from Duke, seem to be the Wolverines’ key pieces in rounding out an inexperienced team this season. But adjusting to a new system and cultivating team chemistry will pose a challenge.
Even players like sophomore guard Cooper Smith, returning from back surgery, warrant a second glance. It’s as if every player requires a double take, combing through their credentials to understand their place on the roster. These things aren’t a mistype, but the reality that Michigan faces this season.
Preseason mumblings have pegged the Wolverines near the top of the Big Ten, though that position fluctuates. Llewellyn and Baker still have to acclimate to a new system. It’s unclear if the five freshmen can thrive at the collegiate level from the get-go, and it remains unknown whether underclassmen can fill the gaps left from last season.
Every team deals with preseason speculation. But the Wolverines are different. Their rapid roster turnover, underclassmen-dominated team and loss of four starters all combine for a unique combination of question marks — many more than usual.
Through it all, though, the Wolverines remain unfazed.
“Everyone have their predictions and everyone have their opinions,” Michigan coach Juwan Howard said. “We’re just gonna keep forging ahead and keep growing. Keep trying to get better game by game. Practice by practice. … I’m really looking forward to our chances.”
How far the Wolverines can go remains to be seen. Nobody has an answer for that question.
Dickinson, though, is confident.
“I think we’ll catch a lot of people by surprise like we did my freshman year,” Dickinson said. “And I think we’ll be a really good team.”
And hopefully, for Michigan, there are more answers than questions at the end.