Not great. Honestly, finishing 11-9 in the conference wasn’t bad, but the nonconference was brutal. It included an overtime win over Ohio, a blowout loss to Arizona State, and a loss to Central Michigan, which finished 342nd on Torvik. A terrible noncon and a meh conference led a berth in the NIT, where they got bounced in the second round by Vanderbilt.
It’s been rough. The big loss was Hunter Dickinson, who transferred to Kansas. Kobe Bufkin and Jett Howard both got drafted in the first round by the NBA. Grad transfer Joey Baker used up his last season. The transfer portal claimed more lightly used players Isaiah Barnes (Tulsa) and Gregg Glenn (Tulane).
PG Dug McDaniel, 5’11’’ 2nd Year: McDaniel was thrown into the fire last season after Jaelin Llewellyn went down with a torn ACL. He was up and down, as most freshmen guards are, but by the end of the season he had put in enough good performances to make Michigan fans feel good about the point guard situation. He was quick enough to live in opposing guards’ back pocket, and he showed the ability to score as well as make plays. He had too many rough days from the field, so his shooting numbers are probably where he can improve the most.
SG Nimari Burnett, 6’4’’ 4th Year: A portal wheel spins and spins and out comes Burnett, who comes from Alabama after a freshman season at Texas Tech. The book on Burnett is that he’s an athletic, long guard who can really defend, and maybe get you a few buckets too. That’s a big switch from what they had last season, and really may signal Michigan’s whole approach may change this year.
SF Terrance Williams, 6’7’’ 4th Year: This might be the toughest spot to fill. Williams is a veteran who played plenty last season, but he’s more comfortable closer to the basket. He’s not much of a passer or shooter and I’m not sure he can defend that well far from the basket. But Michigan needs to put someone out there and Williams is the most experienced option.
PF Olivier Nkamhoua, 6’9’’ 5th Year: A late addition from the portal and definitely the biggest is Nkamhoua out of Tennessee. “NKam” is known as a ferocious defender with a decent offensive game. He planned on going pro but didn’t see a ton of interest, so he carried his wares to Michigan. He likely wants to show he can shoot outside as that will stoke the most interest from NBA types, so expect him to try and space the floor on offense and knock heads on defense.
C Tarris Reed, 6’10’’ 2nd Year: The heir apparent to Hunter Dickinson gets thrown into the fire this season. He showed some very solid rebounding and rim protection last season, and while it would be poor form to expect Dickinsonian levels of scoring, he also has some decent skill around the basket.
PF/C Tray Jackson, 6’10’’ 5th Year: The portal wheel spits out Jackson out of Seton Hall. He played 15 minutes a game last year and was good for a few points and rebounds, and that is probably what he is going to provide for Michigan. He’ll be the Big Man Off The Bench and should be able to come in for Reed or Nkamhoua to spell either.
PG Jaelin Llewellyn, 6’2’’ 5th Year: Llewellyn is a bit of a wildcard, as he transferred in from Princeton last year to be the Wolverine’s starting point guard, then tore his ACL eight games in. He received a waiver to play this year, but I can’t find much mention of him and whether he will be ready to start the season. He was more of a scoring guard at Princeton, so having him play the two and moving Burnett to the three could happen, though that would be a pretty small backcourt.
F Will Tschetter, 6’8’’ 3rd Year: Tschetter received sparing minutes last season as a redshirt freshman, and I’m not sure he gets many more this season. He was recruited as sort of a stretch four option, but only shot 25% from three last season, albeit on only 20 attempts. It’s possible he gets a look at small forward, though I’m not sure he can defend the position. With strong defense around him, if he ups his shooting form he might be an option.
SF Jace Howard, 6’7’’ 4th Year: Howard is another option at the three and being the coach’s kid will certainly get him a long look. He does have the reputation of a solid defender, and he on the court with Nkamhoua and Burnett could add up to a really tough defense. Still, he has shown next to nothing on offense in his career, so tough to predict he will play a ton of minutes for a team that needs someone who can score points.
F Youssef Khayat, 6’9’’ 2nd Year: This Lebanese forward was a big mystery coming to Michigan, and after barely playing last year, he is still a big mystery. He is supposedly a strong shooter and perhaps could man the small forward spot, but with so little information it is difficult to make any predictions.
SG George Washington, 6’2’’ 1st Year: The lone Wolverine freshman, Washington is a former Buckeye commit who ended up pledging to Michigan. A four star recruit, he is known as a really talented shooter who will hopefully develop into a point guard. You can see him getting some minutes as a Microwave off the bench for a team that needs some shooting.
A Conversation With Our Writers
MaximumSam: It’s a new look for Michigan this season. What are we expecting in Ann Arbor?
Brian Gillis: If there’s a word to describe Michigan this season it would be ‘Uncertainty’. With so much roster turnover, I don’t think anyone knows what to expect from the Wolverines. Well, maybe that’s not all together true. Being picked 11th in the Big Ten pre-season poll sends a pretty clear message of what most pundits expect of the Wolverines.
BoilerUp89: Three starters left from a team that didn’t show a ton behind them and didn’t make the NCAA tournament. Michigan brings in two role players, a 6’8” PF that is very good but does most of his scoring in the paint, and 4-star recruit George Washington III. It’s hard for me to look at this roster and say they are more talented than last year’s roster.
MaximumSam: Yeah, being fairly uninspired last season and then losing all your best players isn’t a recipe for preseason expectations. But something must be good, right?
Brian Gillis: It’s not as if there nothing to be excited about if you’re a Michigan fan. McDaniel improved significantly over the course of his freshman season last year, so it’s not unreasonable to expect him to continue that trend this season. Reed also played very precociously as a freshman. Not a scoring threat, but a strong defender and rebounder. Paired with McDaniel, the duo provides a solid foundation for Juwan Howard (once he returns to the bench).
BoilerUp89: Last year’s team however didn’t seem to be as good as the sum of their parts so perhaps this year’s roster will be more capable of putting together wins in the non-conference. The 2022-23 Wolverines slept walked thru the non-conference and couldn’t dig out of their hole despite a decent B1G record. Shot selection was poor and defense optional all too often.
MaximumSam: A glowing review of last year. All right, sum it up for us.
BoilerUp89: The main question that needs to be answered for this year: who steps up from last year’s roster into starting roles? My best guesses are Tarris Reed slides into the starting C role, with newcomer Olivier Nkamhoua taking over the starting PF spot from returning PF starter Terrance Williams. Dug McDaniel likely continues to hold down the starting PG spot although he will have to hold off Llewellyn who was granted a medical hardship waiver to return for another year. I’m not sure Llewellyn can play the SG (and McDaniel almost certainly shouldn’t at 5’11”) but that could be an option to fill that role. Otherwise, you are looking at maybe Burnett at SG and Washington at SF? Lot of unproven guys and not enough scoring to keep up with the more talented teams on their schedule.
Perhaps further adding to doubts about Michigan’s upcoming season is that Juwan Howard may not be available for the start of the season. Juwan underwent a successful heart procedure in the middle of September. Associate head coach Phil Martelli is fully capable of filling in but also probably isn’t up for the daily grind of running the program at this point in his coaching career. With so many new pieces, can the assistants figure out how to fit them together without Juwan around? Juwan is expected to be back this season, but will his return be too late to pull together a successful season?
Brian Gillis: Michigan should be a much better defensive team this year. Defense certainly wasn’t Michigan’s strength last season. With the addition of Burnett, Nkamhoua and Jackson – together with Reed and the inside presence he presents – the Wolverines look to be much improved defensively.
They should also play a much more open style of offense. After three years of playing through Dickinson down-low, Michigan will look much different on offense this year. The hope in Ann Arbor is that the more open offense will translate into one that’s also more efficient and higher scoring.
If that proves to be true, if Michigan’s pieces fit together, if the whole proves to be greater than the sum of the parts (something that was not the case last season) Michigan could surprise this season.