The Michigan Wolverines are going to have a loaded roster next season in head coach Juwan Howard’s second campaign at the helm. However, the question continues to rage on as it pertains to how they might actually be able to make things work.
Where it stands now, there are too many cooks in the kitchen. Without adding another player to the 2020 recruiting class, Michigan is one over the scholarship limit for next season (chart here). Attrition is going to have to occur somewhere, especially if they are going to add five-star guard Joshua Christopher — which seems likely.
The addition of a player like Christopher would put them two over the scholarship limit, and that might be where it ends. Five-star forward Greg Brown has been on the wish list as well, but with Shaka Smart safe at Texas it appears the Longhorns have strengthened their grip on his recruitment.
With all of that in mind and that spots that might need to open, here are the scenarios that could be in play for how Michigan might get there.
1. One (or both) of Isaiah Livers and Franz Wagner enters the NBA Draft and stay there
Livers has already declared his intentions to go through the NBA Draft evaluation process, which could take his decision all the way to June 3. Wagner may be headed down the same road as he continues to weigh his options and get the appropriate feedback needed to make a decision. The great thing about the updated draft process protocol is that it allows you to declare and return to school if the feedback is not what you were looking for or the player goes undrafted (assuming an agent was not retained past the deadline and you receive a combine invite). If one of them declares, Michigan is halfway to where it needs to be. If both go, then there are the two spots that are needed. It is hard to tell which way either may lean, but if we split the difference and expect one to move on, it would not be all that surprising. Personally, it feels like all scenarios are in play here.
2. A surprise transfer or two
Austin Davis and Adrien Nunez are on the record as staying at Michigan next season, which takes two of the guys off of the presumed “most likely to transfer” board earlier on in 2020. Eli Brooks rounded out into one of the roster’s best all-around players this season, so he certainly feels like he would be sticking around. Could there be a surprise or two somewhere on the roster that decides to transfer?
That would seem to leave Brandon Johns, David DeJulius, Colin Castleton and Cole Bajema as guys that would be left. Castleton and Bajema’s roles were kind of up in the air throughout the season, so maybe something could happen there. Johns and DeJulius were two of Michigan’s key role players and DeJulius in particular is all but assured the starting point guard job next season. Michigan didn’t really face much attrition during the transition from John Beilein to Howard, so maybe the bill comes due for that this offseason and someone in a key role steps aside? It is hard to tell, but again, it cannot be totally written off.
3. One of the current commits does not sign
Michigan has five players committed to its 2020 recruiting class in five-star forward Isaiah Todd, four-star center Hunter Dickinson, four-star forward Terrance Williams, four-star guard Zeb Jackson (signed) and three-star forward Jace Howard. All of these players have remained steadfast in their commitments to the program, but there had been whispers of Todd going pro and playing overseas since he did not sign back in December. That talk has died down, but again is something that cannot be totally written off, even if it seems increasingly unlikely.
4. Jace Howard winds up being a walk-on
Howard — yes, the son of Juwan Howard if you were not aware — is Michigan’s lowest-ranked recruit and a three-star prospect. Because of that, some people have wondered if should be a walk-on to free up that spot for somebody else. It has been my understanding that the Wolverines plan to have him on scholarship and that has always been the case here. In a scenario where Michigan winds up in a crunch and then needed a spot for say, Greg Brown or a grad transfer, maybe we would see them consider going the walk-on route. But the staff believes he can play and scholarship players do get enhanced benefits (facilities, meals, etc.) that walk-ons do not. He was offered a scholarship and accepted it, so for now it seems logical that the arrangement stays as it does. If Michigan needs spots to be opened up, it feels like they can get there rather easily with the options above this.