National outlets have begun to forecast the 2020-21 NCAA basketball season with the academic year beginning at the end of this month. Last season, new head coach Juwan Howard and the Michigan Wolverines team that had lost their three highest-scoring players were unranked to begin the season. After a 7-0 start to the year, the team made the biggest jump in the AP Poll in college basketball history jumping all the way to No. 4 before falling to Louisville.
This season will tell a different story if NBC Sports’ calculations are correct as the Wolverines find their way to No. 20 in the country in their way-too-early preseason Top-25.
Author Rob Dauster highlights that the Wolverines will be without their two senior veterans from last year, Zavier Simpson and Jon Teske. But, Dauster appreciates the return of Isaiah Livers, Eli Brooks, and Brandon Johns Jr. He also has the “Wait and See” approach with Chaundee Brown, the transfer guard from Wake Forest, who is still awaiting his eligibility waiver for this upcoming year.
Here is what Dauster likes from this year’s Michigan roster:
The Wolverines are going to have one of the better frontlines in college basketball in 2020-21, as they seem likely to return Isaiah Livers in addition to Franz Wagner. Throw in a recruiting class that includes Hunter Dickinson, and the Wolverines will be loaded. Their guards are old, but there are some questions about the upside of Columbia grad transfer Mike Smith and Eli Brooks. Can Wake Forest transfer Chaundee Brown get eligible?
His projected starting lineup for the Wolverines is Mike Smith, Eli Brooks, Isaiah Livers, Franz Wagner, Hunter Dickinson. Although I don’t see Wagner as a four, this would be a really solid lineup to have out on the court for Michigan, and would be tough for teams to beat in the Big Ten Conference this season.
Speaking of the Wolverines’ conference opponents, five others join Michigan on NBC Sports’ rankings.
The highest-rated is Iowa who unsurprisingly comes in as a top-10 team and No. 7 overall after reigning Big Ten Player of the Year Luka Garza announced his return to the program.
Another in-conference top-10 team is Illinois who comes in at No. 9 in the rankings certainly thanks to Ayo Dosunmu and Kofi Cockburn coming back for another year.
The Wisconsin Badgers are No. 12 after losing only one player from their regular season championship roster from 2019.
Michigan State comes in at No. 15 but have some key losses in Cassius Winston and Xavier Tillman. With that being said, the Spartans still have an incredibly talented roster with Rocket Watts, Joey Hauser (Marquette transfer), and Aaron Henry leading the way.
Just one spot ahead of Michigan at No. 19 is Rutgers who surprised a lot of people in the Big Ten last season earning them a spot in this year’s Top-25 as the return nearly their whole roster.
Dauster names Ohio State and Indiana as two of his five teams that barely missed the cut for his way-too-early Top-25.
Mention in the Top-25 would certainly be a confidence booster for this talented Wolverines team, especially in another year of an incredibly impressive Big Ten Conference. Hopefully we will get to see some of these titans in college basketball clash in the backend of the 2020 year.