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Michigan basketball ranked in top 20 of Andy Katz’s preseason Power 36

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The Wolverines look to have a strong year two under Juwan Howard.

NCAA Basketball: Wisconsin at Michigan Rick Osentoski-USA TODAY Sports

It’s strange to say without the Michigan football season upon us, but college basketball is right around the corner. In fact, the first games can be played as early as Nov. 25, or about two months from now. So before the Michigan Wolverines even take the field at the Big House, it’s time to start prepping for games at the Crisler Center.

Andy Katz of NCAA.com and Big Ten Network laid out his preseason Power 36 rankings. And Katz is relatively high on the Wolverines coming into 2020, slotting them as the No. 17 team in the country despite losing senior leadership in Zavier Simpson and Jon Teske.

Two returning players highlight why he considers Michigan to be one of the nation’s best teams:

Isaiah Livers should be first-team all-Big Ten. If he’s healthy, he’ll be a tough stop. Franz Wagner could be up for a banner sophomore year. Juwan Howard will continue to put his imprint on this program and lead the Wolverines to the NCAA tournament.

Last season was obviously cut short due to the emergence of COVID-19, halting both the Big Ten Tournament and the NCAA Tournament before they even tipped. In 2020, Michigan will make its first run at a Big Ten Championship and a March Madness bid.

But it will be a difficult road to get there even with two potential NBA Draft picks in their starting lineup. Simpson and Teske leave huge holes at the point guard and center positions. Potential fill-ins David DeJulius and Colin Castleton also left the program for opportunities to play elsewhere.

On top of that, the Big Ten is as deep as ever. Two of Katz’s top five teams hail from the Big Ten (Iowa and Illinois) and Wisconsin is ranked just outside at No. 6. Overall, eight of Katz’s Power 36 are members of the Big Ten, more than any other conference. This season isn’t going to be easy.

There is a lot to prove for Juwan Howard and this team in 2020. They flashed top five potential at times last year, but also went on scoring droughts and lost several games in a row. Can they put it all together this year and prove Katz correct? Only time will tell.