An underrated frontcourt and a blossoming star point guard could make the Michigan Wolverines a dark horse.
The Michigan Wolverines are just months away from officially starting the post-Hunter Dickinson era. The crafty center took his talents to Kansas, leaving Juwan Howard will some leftovers of last year’s team and a trio of transfers. For a few weeks, Caleb Love was also headed to Ann Arbor, but now he’s an Arizona Wildcat.
Despite the Wolverines losing a star in Dickinson, and two more in Jett Howard and Kobe Bufkin, they still have a strong returning core. Dug McDaniel was forced into the starting lineup last season after Jaelin Llewellyn went down with an injury. McDaniel turned into a freshman star, living up to his 4-star rating coming out of high school.
McDaniel should share the backcourt with a (hopefully) fully healthy Llewellyn. Alabama transfer Nimari Burnett started 9 games for the Tide last year and is another crucial piece in the backcourt. Aside from them, freshman George Washington III may get some court time.
In the frontcourt, Michigan is deep. Terrance Williams returns and is joined by Tennessee transfer Olivier Nkamhoua. While Nkahmhoua was brought in to add some scoring, both will give Michigan an edge on the boards, alongside big man Tarris Reed Jr. Off the bench, Seton Hall transfer Tray Jackson and returning forward Will Tschetter provide depth and experience. Jackson could potentially crack the starting lineup, and will certainly get a lot of minutes.
Even though the Michigan Wolverines are without three of their biggest stars from last season, Juwan Howard did a great job of finding transfers with power conference experience. Michigan is heading into the season a bit underrated, but the talent is there to get back on the right path after a so-so season in 2022-23.
Click here to learn more about our preseason top 100 teams heading into the 2023-24 college basketball season.
Head coach: Juwan Howard (5th season, all at Michigan)
2022-23 record: 18-16 (11-9)
2023 postseason finish: Lost to Vanderbilt, 66-65, in second round of NIT
Notable departures: Hunter Dickinson (Transferred to Kansas), Jett Howard (NBA), Kobe Bufkin (NBA), Joey Baker (Graduated)
Notable non-conference games:
PG: Dug McDaniel (5-11, 175, So.)
2022-23 stats: 8.6 PPG, 3.6 APG, 3.1 RPG, 1.1 SPG, 35.5 3P%
SG: Jaelin Llewellyn (6-2, 190, Gr.-Sr.)
2022-23 stats: 7.0 PPG, 3.3 RPG, 2.8 APG, 18.5 3P%, 30.9 FG%, 8 games played (ACL injury)
2021-22 stats: 15.7 PPG, 4.1 RPG, 2.5 APG, 38.6 3P% (Princeton)
SF: Terrance Williams II (6-7, 225, Sr.)
2022-23 stats: 6.1 PPG, 5.9 RPG, 0.8 APG, 38.5 FG%
PF: Olivier Nkamhoua (6-9, 235, Gr.-Sr.)
2022-23 stats: 10.8 PPG, 5.0 RPG, 2.0 APG, 51.3 FG% (Tennessee)
C: Tarris Reed Jr. (6-10, 265, So.)
2022-23 stats: 3.4 PPG, 3.9 RPG, 0.1 APG, 51.7 FG%
6: Nimari Burnett (6-4, 200, Gr.-Sr.)
2022-23 stats: 5.6 PPG, 2.0 RPG, 0.7 APG, 36.8 FG% (Alabama)
7: Tray Jackson (6-10, 215, Gr.-Sr.)
2022-23 stats: 6.5 PPG, 2.2 RPG, 0.2 APG, 37.5 3P% (Seton Hall)
8: Will Tschetter (6-8, 245, Rs.-So.)
2022-23 stats: 2.3 PPG, 1.4 RPG, 0.4 APG
9: George Washington III (6-2, 170, Fr.)
247Sports Composite No. 96 rated recruit
10: Jace Howard (6-8, 225, Jr.)
2022-23 stats: 1.2 PPG, 0.9 RPG, 0.1 APG
Michigan Wolverines MVP: Dug McDaniel
Although Nkamhoua was the big transfer get, McDaniel has the potential for a major breakout season. As a freshman, he finished fourth on the team in scoring average and now the top three are gone. That should thrust McDaniel into even more of a scoring role than last season.
He also won’t have as much competition around him. Although coach Howard did bring in some talent, no one will have even close to the same usage rate as Dickinson did last year. Even Nkamhoua, who had some solid years at Tennessee, is better seen as a 1A/1B option.
But despite that all, McDaniel will still have good options to depend on. He isn’t the only player who can create his own shot and with a healthy Llewellyn, will even have more pressure taken off in the backcourt.
Heading into the start of the season, everything is in place for Dug McDaniel to have a huge season for the Michigan Wolverines.
Michigan Wolverines make-or-break player: Tarris Reed Jr.
The only true question mark in Michigan’s starting lineup is Tarris Reed Jr. Last season, he was Dickinson’s backup. This season, he will replace him as the starting center. That’s a lot to live up to.
Of course, the Wolverines will be patient with him and won’t hold him to the same standards, but it is still an important role. Being the starting center for any Big Ten team isn’t a light job, especially at Michigan.
If you look at how Reed played last year, the signs do point in a positive light. Reed only played about 12 minutes per game but still found a way to average over 3 PPG and almost 4 RPG. Considering he’ll probably play close to 30 MPG this season, and taking into consideration offseason improvements, averaging a double-double isn’t out of the realm of possibilities.
Reed, a former highly ranked recruit, has the skillsets and the body to be a force inside for Michigan. Putting it all together as the starting center will be the task at hand.
Key analytic: SCC%
SCC% (second-chance conversion percentage vs. the average opponent) measures how good a team is at converting buckets from offensive rebounds. Last season, the Michigan Wolverines ranked 24th at 7.15%. Of course, they can thank Hunter Dickinson for being so good at getting second-chance buckets.
This season, it might be more of a free-flowing Michigan offense, but the second-chance points could dip. It’ll be up to Reed and the rest of the frontcourt to get offensive boards, but now, other players will need to step up and get buckets when the Wolverines do get multiple chances on offense. Michigan may not force it inside as much as in the past, which will make for a much different halfcourt offense.
Michigan Wolverines 2023-24 projections
Projected conference finish: 12th in the Big Ten
Projected postseason ceiling: NCAA Tournament – Round of 64 Exit