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Michigan basketball transfers playing huge role in success of team

Juwan Howard has a keen eye for talent.

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

The Michigan Wolverines came into the 2020-21 with several holes on the roster and a few question marks in the rotation, as important role players transferred and a few starters departed after graduation.

Still, the team has found a way to propel themselves into the top five for a variety of reasons. One, of which, is the addition of Hunter Dickinson, who has been one of the best freshmen in the country.

One grouping overshadowed by the freshman phenom are the two transfers who play a significant role on this roster. The fact of the matter is both Chaundee Brown and Mike Smith have been invaluable to this basketball team.

Smith has admirably filled the void Zavier Simpson left behind at the point guard position. In one of the most important positions on the basketball court, Michigan had plenty of doubt who the true point guard would be this season. Smith quickly squashed all of those worries to become a mainstay starter in a Power 5 conference.

He isn’t quite the facilitator or floor general Simpson was, but his 5.6 assists per game is nothing to shy away from. The fifth-year senior is also far from the scoring liability Simpson was. Smith shoots an efficient shot at a highly effective rate.

He converts 46.6% of his attempts and 47.1% of his three pointers. He’s had six double-digit performances this season, and the Wolverines’ only loss of the year was Smith’s worst game. In the defeat at Minnesota, Smith was 0-of-6 from the floor. That is no accident. Smith’s play is an integral part of the success of this team, and he continues to show his value game in and game out.

Brown was not as hyped heading into the season as Smith, but he has been a pleasant surprise to the squad. Brown wasn’t touted as a lights-out shooter coming in, but he hardly misses a shot from the corner-three. That has created a beautiful tandem between he and Dickinson when the big man gets double-teamed in the post. A simple kick-out to Brown in the corner has turned into an easy three points more often than not. Brown has scored more than 10 points in five games this season and each came with him shooting over 50% from three.

This is the first time in recent memory where two transfers have had such an impressive impact on the team. Sure, this team already had top talent in future NBAers like Isaiah Livers and Franz Wagner. But these two transfers completed the team and made them one of the best in the country. It was the cherry on top of a talented recruiting class and three returning starters. Without Smith and Brown, this team would not be at the top of the country like they are today.

Here is how they stack up against other 2020-21 transfers across the nation:

1. Arkansas (12-4)

Transfers: Jalen Tate, Connor Vanover, JD Notae, Vance Jackson, Justin Smith

Per game totals: 48.4 points, 22.2 rebounds, 9.3 assists

2. Arizona (12-3)

Transfers: Terrell Brown, James Akinjo, Jordan Brown

Per game totals: 33.3 points, 10.6 rebounds, 9.5 assists

3. No. 10 Texas Tech (11-5)

Transfers: Mac McClung, Marcus Santos-Silva, Jamarious Burton

Per game totals: 31.0 points, 10.8 rebounds, and 4.7 assists

4. No. 8 Virginia (11-2)

Transfers: Sam Hauser, Trey Murphy III

Per game totals: 25.8 points, 10.4 rebounds, and 3.2 assists

5. No. 21 Minnesota (11-5)

Transfers: Liam Robbins, Both Gach

Per game totals: 22.9 points, 12 rebounds, 3.6 assists

6. Memphis (9-5)

Transfers: DeAndre Willaims, Landers Nolley

Per game totals: (23.2 points, 8.7 rebounds, and 5.2 assists per game)

7. Boise State (13-1)

Transfers: Devonaire Doutrive, Marcus Shave Jr.

Per game totals: 24.1 points, 8.7 rebounds, 2.5 assists

8. No. 9 Alabama (14-3)

Transfers: Jahvon Quinerly, Jordan Bruner

Per game totals: 19.8 points, 7.4 rebounds, and 5.0 assists

9. No. 4 Michigan (13-1)

Transfers: Mike Smith, Chaundee Brown

Per game totals: 17.2 points, 6.2 rebounds, and 6.5 assists

10. No. 25 Louisville (10-3)

Transfers: Carlik Jones

Per game totals: 18.4 points, 5.6 rebounds, 4.8 assists

As you can see from the list above, plenty of teams among the best in the country have recruited well from the transfer portal. It is becoming an increasingly important aspect of succeeding in college sports. So far, Howard has done well utilizing it to add veterans to a championship-caliber roster. He will likely need to continue to do so if there is hope to sustain Final Four levels of success in Ann Arbor.