Michigan coach Juwan Howard has identified several areas where his team can improve moving forward into Big Ten play. Miles Macklin/Daily. Buy this photo.

The Michigan men’s basketball team that opened the season at No. 6 in the AP poll and soared as high as No. 4 has tumbled from its initial peak. Sitting now unranked with a 6-4 overall record and facing a slate of four-straight unranked opponents, the Wolverines need to take this opportunity to right the ship. The Daily breaks down three things Michigan must accomplish to successfully turn its season around with the heart of Big Ten play looming in January.

Limiting turnovers

The Wolverines currently average 13.5 turnovers per game, a large reason for their four losses and overall offensive ineptitude. 

“We just have to make the simple play and value the basketball, but not overthink or force plays,” Michigan coach Juwan Howard said on Friday.

So far, the Wolverines have appeared to struggle making both complex and simple plays. Elementary pick-and-roll sets seem to lack cohesion, and sometimes the offense appears to be running erratically and directionless. These circumstances have often led to unnecessary turnovers, whether it be errant passes, balls forced into traffic or players dribbling off their own feet. 

To improve its record, Michigan will have to reel in these unnecessary turnovers that have resulted in wasted offensive possessions and then put itself in inopportune positions on the defensive side of the ball.

“That’s an area that we can truly improve on,” Howard said. “That we must get better with.”

Shoot more consistently

Michigan has all the tools to be an elite shooting team. Fifth-year guard Eli Brooks and freshman forward Caleb Houstan stand at the top of that toolkit, especially Houstan, whose ceiling is virtually as high as anyone’s in college basketball when it comes to shooting potential.

But while the Wolverines may have everything it takes, their lack of consistent execution has held them back. Michigan has posted games where it flexed its shooting muscles — going 51.3% from the field and 46.9% from three against Nebraska, for example — but then goes into the next game to make just 16.7% from beyond the arc, as it did against Minnesota.

It’s a problem that transforms the Wolverines from lethal to easily beatable. Michigan doesn’t have to be shooting the lights out every game to get back on track, but what it does need is consistency. 

“When (shots are falling), we get real comfortable,” sophomore guard Zeb Jackson said after the Nebraska game. “We start moving the ball a lot better. We really just start playing as a team a lot better.”

Avoid the COVID-19 resurgence

Due to the sudden prevalence of the omicron variant, games are being canceled, postponed and rescheduled all around the NCAA and other sports leagues. With the holiday season rolling around, people are traveling and seeing family, raising the chances COVID-19 may spread to either the Wolverines or one of their opponents.

Howard, though, insists that he and his team have remained diligent.

“My talks have always been consistent,” Howard said. “ … Chris, who’s our trainer, has always been consistent with his message. Nothing never changes.

“ … But everyone knows that we’re not out of the clear yet. So there’s no reason to have any type of lax because COVID still is here. And COVID hasn’t gone anywhere.”