Last year, the Michigan men’s basketball team endured an up-and-down season that saw it go from a top-10 preseason favorite to a bubble team to an unlikely Sweet 16 squad. The Wolverines now enter this season full of fresh faces eager to take Michigan back to the top of the Big Ten and re-enter the national contender conversation. The team is unequivocally led by junior center Hunter Dickinson, the only returning starter from last season’s squad. But this roster lacks seven of its top nine scorers from last year. As Juwan Howard enters his fourth year as Michigan’s head coach, this is the most questions his roster has come into the season with.
With extensive roster turnover, there are many new names to get acquainted with. The Wolverines boast five freshmen: forwards Gregg Glenn III, Youssef Khayat, and Tarris Reed Jr., and guards Dug McDaniel and Jett Howard. They are joined by two graduates from the transfer portal, guards Jaelin Llewellyn from Princeton and Joey Baker from Duke. Red-shirt freshman forward Will Tschetter and sophomore guard Isaiah Barnes will also look to make their first impacts on the court.
Before Michigan takes the floor on Monday in its season-opener against Purdue Fort Wayne, The Daily breaks down the roster to get you acclimated to all the new faces.
This one needs little introduction. Dickinson is back and is without a doubt the key to Michigan’s success this season. The offense will once again be built around Dickinson’s strong inside presence, looking to replicate last year’s game plan that saw him as the team’s leading scorer with 18.6 points per game. Dickinson poses a matchup nightmare for nearly all other teams in the country. His ability to draw the double team and find open teammates will be crucial for the success of the offense.
He did not take the decision to come back to college likely. With another year at the collegiate level, he wants to focus on improving his mid-range and three-point shooting to become a more versatile player. Dickinson projects to be in the running for Big Ten Player of the Year and to earn the All-American status he received as a freshman. His presence will be equally as important off the court as it is on. As an upper-classmen, Dickinson’s leadership could help determine this team’s ceiling.
For the eight-or-so minutes per game that Dickinson finds himself on the bench, it will be a challenge for Michigan to replace his production in the paint. Reed and Glenn are the most obvious players to fill in. Reed can rotate between the four and five with ease, is a strong rebounder, and gets physical down low. Glenn has similar attributes, but is a better ball handler than Reed, sometimes playing as a point-forward in high school.
For the first time in five years, the Michigan backcourt will be without Eli Brooks. To replace him, the Wolverines took a familiar route and dipped into the transfer portal for a veteran guard. For the third straight season, the backcourt will feature a mid-major grad transfer. Jaelin Llewellyn comes to Michigan after averaging 15.7 points per game at Princeton last season. Llewellyn will serve as the primary ball handler to create opportunities for his teammates. He also possesses a strong outside shooting ability, with a 38.6% from three last season.
Baker also provides veteran experience for the backcourt. Baker transferred after spending four years at Duke, and his veteran leadership will be a valuable asset off the bench as he still works back from off-season hip surgery.
The second spot in the backcourt is still up for grabs. There are a slew of underclassmen that will vie for playing time, including sophomore Kobe Bufkin, McDaniel, Jett and Baker.
Bufkin put in significant work all offseason, adding 20 pounds to his 6-foot-4 frame. Last season, he was buried in the depth chart behind more experienced guards, earning just 10.6 minutes per game. That stat will undoubtedly improve this season. McDaniel is a promising freshman that could make an immediate impact on the court. If paired with Llewellyn, the Wolverines will have a smaller rotation, but this isn’t a concern for the coaching staff because of McDaniel’s skill set.
Jett could also make a case to start, probably at the ‘3’ rather than the backcourt, despite only being a freshman. He is a versatile player that can play and guard all three positions in the backcourt. His shooting and shot creation are above average for a freshman, and standing at 6-foot-8, his unique size gives him an advantage over opposing guards. Behind them, Barnes and fellow sophomore Ian Burns both appeared in two games last season and are looking to improve and add depth to the backcourt.
With the departure of Moussa Diabate and Caleb Houstan to the NBA, Michigan has some major talent to replace. Junior Terrance Williams II is one player ready to step up. Williams has come off the bench for the majority of his career, but his playing time will look to drastically increase with the roster turnover, most likely resulting in a starting position. As a small forward, Williams morphed into a reliable option last season for the Wolverines, averaging 15.5 minutes per game. He finished second on the team in three-point percentage, establishing himself as a legitimate outside threat. Last year was a confidence-boosting season for Williams, and this year, as a captain, his scrappy, physical play will only add to that.
Also a captain, Jace is looking to make a much larger impact on and off the court. Known for his high-energy defensive style, regardless of how much Jace plays, his leadership is invaluable. His minutes and on-court stats will likely see a big increase.
Beyond that, the Wolverines will look towards their freshmen to piece together the gaps. Youssef Khayat joins Michigan from Lebanon. He projects to play the three or four and has impressed so far on the defensive end, but after missing summer practices, his offensive skill set is still rounding into form. Despite the lack of experience with his team, he will make an immediate impact on the court.
Tschetter is an intriguing option who could bring a lot of value to the court. He used his redshirt year to focus on his strength and conditioning and he should be able to see the court early in the season to assess his skills. Glenn and Reed, while not focusing on replacing Dickinson in the paint, will both undoubtedly play valuable minutes at power forward.
The Daily projects the starting lineup to consist of Llewellyn, Bufkin, Jett, Williams, and Dickinson. But as the season unfolds, there could be a lot of fluidity with the roster. With so much turnover, anything could happen.
There is one certainty: Dickinson will dominate ‘5’. Beyond that, there are more questions than answers. This roster is riddled with potential, and the ability to cultivate that talent will determine if Michigan can climb back to the top of the Big Ten and into the national conversation.