Juwan Howard and the Michigan Wolverines return to action in a matter of weeks, opening their season against Buffalo on Nov. 10. The Maize and Blue return a talented roster in their sophomores and upperclassmen, while they welcome in a recruiting class ranked No. 2 in the nation. While there is usually a discernible difference between the incoming freshmen and the seniors, this year holds a different story.
This team will showcase the last recruits from former head coach John Beilein as they lead a team largely consisting of talent head coach Juwan Howard brought in. There is a lot of talent between these two groups, and expectations are national championship high.
Michigan welcomed in six recruits in the 2021 class. The two five stars, Caleb Houstan and Moussa Diabate, enter as the most college-ready. With no juniors on the team after Franz Wagner was drafted by the Orlando Magic, there is plenty of room for these freshmen to have an immediate impact.
Seniority will more than likely win out at first, as was seen last year with Austin Davis starting over Hunter Dickinson. Michigan fans should expect the same for Houstan and Diabate based on the positions they will likely fill on the team. Houstan will be Michigan’s up and coming threat from the three, and based on frame and build, he is reminiscent of an Isaiah Livers/Duncan Robinson type. Although, his specialty extends from the perimeter, which aligns more with a Livers in terms of versatility and basketball IQ.
Diabate, on the other hand, will likely excel in the four or five spot. Diabate should be expected to be the sub for Dickinson, but also has the potential to play the four with Dickinson at the five. This depends on the amount of height Michigan wants out on the floor at a given time, but with versatility in the post and perimeter, Diabate will be more fluid in the two positions.
Isaiah Barnes and Kobe Bufkin are the freshmen who have more of a question mark around them. Both are cited as shot-makers from pretty much anywhere on the floor. There are a lot of open minutes for them to sub in at the two or three, based on how camp goes, and make an impact off the bench.
Frankie Collins enters as the freshman point guard. Assuming the starting point guard role is locked up by grad transfer DeVante’ Jones, Collins and sophomore Zeb Jackson will be competing for the backup point guard position.
Will Tschetter filled the role of the four in high school, and with this position group being the deepest on the team, he will more than likely have a season reflective of a typical freshman. However, that is not to say he won’t make appearances because of the wide range of talent this team exhibits across the classes.
Based on the team as it stands, this season’s initial starting lineup is ambiguous due to an absent junior class and the overall talent depth of the team. Recent Michigan teams have centered around a core starting five and a rotation that totals to roughly seven guys who play meaningful minutes. With this entire class being as talented as they are, there could be up to 10 players that all have the ability to contribute.
Under Beilein, freshmen weren’t often given the opportunity to crack the starting lineup, but it did happen occasionally. This team feels different because impactful talent exists in every class, as reflected in their preseason rankings. The freshmen have been cited by Howard for being hardworking, and their skillset reflects versatility, high basketball IQ and a go-getter attitude. This season should see them playing a decent amount and as key players in the rotation. It is a perfect storm for these six talented freshmen.