After head coach Juwan Howard’s 19-12 inaugural season at Michigan, the jury is still out as to whether Howard is the coach that he is cracked up to be.
After the surprise departure of arguably the best head coach in Michigan Basketball history, John Beilein, Michigan hired the former Fab Five member to take his place. The most apparent change that came with Coach Howard was his compatibility with the NCAA’s one-and-done culture that Beilein was decidedly against. This, along with Howard’s persona and history in the NBA, should allow Michigan to pull in far stronger recruiting classes than it had under Beilein, who failed to recruit a single McDonald’s All American in his 12 years at the helm.
Michigan pulled the highest-ranked class in the Big Ten, and the 13th best in the country. This comes despite the loss of commit Isaiah Todd to the G League and Josh Christopher’s surprise commitment to Arizona State. Michigan’s 2020 Class is headlined by three 4-stars: center Hunter Dickinson, shooting guard Zeb Jackson, and power forward Terrance Williams, along with 3-star small forward Jace Howard. Although the loss of 5-stars Todd and Christopher will be felt, this class still is posed to propel Michigan into a very strong 2020-2021 campaign.
While Michigan’s 2019-2020 season was far from ideal, it showed some serious potential. The Wolverines went 19-12 overall, with 9 of the 12 losses coming in close games (less than 10 point differential). They went 10-10 in an incredibly strong Big Ten, which had a 3-way tie for 1st place and a 4-way tie for 3rd place. Michigan has some definite room for improvement, but another year under Coach Howard for returning players, as well as the Wolverine’s recruiting class, can give fans some hope.
Forward Isaiah Livers has yet to announce a decision on whether he is returning for his senior season, but regardless of his decision, Michigan’s returning cast is not to be scoffed at. Guards Eli Brooks and Franz Wagner will both be returning, as well as forwards Brandon Johns Jr. and Austin Davis. These players will certainly be able to make an impact on the floor next year. Veterans Zavier Simpson and Jon Teske will certainly be missed, and David DeJulius’ transfer will leave Michigan lacking at the point guard position. If Livers were to return, it would certainly bolster this Wolverine lineup, but life after on-court-coach Zavier Simpson will be difficult to adjust to for this program.
Michigan landed two transfers, Columbia point guard Mike Smith and Wake Forest shooting guard Chaundee Brown. Mike Smith may be able to fill the Wolverine’s void at point guard, but Zavier Simpson will be a difficult act to follow. Smith’s scoring, passing, and defense he displayed at Columbia are very promising, but this may not translate to a conference like the Big Ten. Time will tell if Smith will be able to fill the shoes left for him. Chaundee Brown may not be able to play next season, but if granted a waiver, Brown could strengthen the Wolverine’s lineup and add some scoring and rebounding.
While Juwan Howard and his Michigan team lost a lot of hype for next year with the loss of Isaiah Todd, Joshua Christopher, and David DeJulius, they still have the potential to be a contender for the Big Ten and could make some waves in the NCAA Tournament. While it is way too early to say they could contend for a title (and fairly unlikely), it’s certainly possible. We’ll just have to wait and see.