The No. 22 Michigan men’s basketball team is set to tip off against Ferris State in an exhibition game on Friday night, one last tune-up before Monday’s season-opener. Although the Bulldogs are far from the Wolverines’ biggest test early in the season, the exhibition will provide insight into Michigan’s new lineup and personnel. Ahead of the game the Daily breaks down what to watch for:
Who’s scoring the ball?
The Wolverines retained their No. 1 option on offense — junior center Hunter Dickinson — who will be holding down the interior for the third consecutive year. Returning as last season’s top-scorer, it’s safe to pencil Dickinson in for 15-plus points almost every game.
Behind Dickinson, though, Michigan is going to need someone to step up. Four of the Wolverines’ top-five scorers from last year are no longer rostered, so those shots have to be distributed elsewhere. Whether it’s graduate transfer guard Jaelin Llewellyn, junior forward Terrence Williams II, sophomore guard Kobe Bufkin, freshman wing Jett Howard or some combination of the quartet, Michigan needs to be able to score, especially in games where Dickinson falters.
At the team’s Media Day, Michigan coach Juwan Howard made it sound like Bufkin is poised for a leap offensively:
“Kobe has a chance to really impact this team in a lot of ways,” Juwan said on Oct. 14. “He can shoot the basketball, he can score, and he’s a really good finisher at the rim. … He has been on a mission and he’s gonna make an impact and have a big year. That’s what I expect from Kobe, a big year.”
While finding the basket might not be a problem against Ferris State, it will be interesting to see who takes the vacated shots. With Howard hinting that Bufkin is primed for a larger role in the offense, Friday should provide some semblance of an answer.
How’s the backcourt shaping up?
The assumption is that Llewellyn and Bufkin will be the Wolverines’ starting guards. While this is the most likely scenario, Juwan could run a variety of different combinations. Freshman guard Dug McDaniel, for example, has garnered his fair share of hype in the preseason. With McDaniel on the floor, Michigan would be slightly undersized, but Juwan doesn’t see this as a problem.
“Duggy is going to make you play him,” Juwan said at Big Ten Media Days on Oct. 12. “There are going to be some times when you’re going to see (McDaniel and Llewellyn) in the backcourt. And I’m not afraid to say it to the public or to our opposing teams. It’s going to happen.”
With McDaniel, the Wolverines have the option to go small. But, Michigan could run out bigger backcourts as well. Jett will almost certainly see minutes at the ‘2’, and standing at 6-foot-8, he could create matchup nightmares for smaller teams.
Jett’s length can create chaos on the defensive side of the ball, too. When he is playing guard, the Wolverines could have four players standing at 6-foot-7 or above on the floor at the same time. With that type of length, passing lanes are sure to be congested.
With a roster that’s capable of playing big or playing small, Juwan can tinker with his plethora of backcourt options on Friday.
While Michigan’s contest against Ferris State might not be competitive, it will provide insight to a Wolverine squad made up of mostly new faces. With the majority of Michigan’s scoring options gone, and its backcourt from last season eradicated, Friday will provide a taste of what’s to come for the Wolverines.