The 2021-22 Michigan Wolverines’ men’s basketball team has high expectations going into the season due to their high ceiling and a good combo of returning contributors and talented recruits coming in.
The ceiling for this Michigan team gets higher if the bench for this Michigan team can dominate opposing second units and limit the drop-off in play when starters leave the floor. Sophomore Zeb Jackson could be a big part of that second unit’s success, as after being buried on the depth chart last season, his second season could be a chance to shine.
Here’s what we could take away from Jackson in limited play and what Michigan fans can expect from the young guard this season.
The story so far
Only playing 85 total minutes last year, Jackson usually came into the game when the Wolverines had already won, so it’s hard to truly evaluate his tenure so far.
As I covered in our point guard preview, my biggest goal for Jackson this season is being able to establish some sort of confidence and truly get his footing in Big Ten play. The swagger he played with was a huge part of his game coming out of high school, when he had more than a few highlight dunks and step-back threes while using his quick first step to get to the lane and find open teammates.
He gained a bit of confidence in Michigan’s opening round game in the NCAA Tournament, as he hit two big threes in the first half to help get the Wolverine lead to 17 in the blowout win.
Jackson did prove in that Texas Southern game he can hit big threes and contribute scoring off the bench for the Wolverines. Hopefully he can parlay that confidence into this season, where he will likely be one of the first guards off the bench.
Outlook for 2021-22
Jackson didn’t see the floor a lot last season due to a being buried on the depth chart, as with a crowded backcourt of Mike Smith, Eli Brooks, Franz Wagner and Chaundee Brown, there wasn’t a lot of playing time for Jackson to get a rhythm going.
As talented as the incoming freshman class is, Jackson does have a bit more experience. As Andrew Bailey covered for us last week, Jackson’s high I.Q., smooth three-point stroke and year of NCAA workouts and practice could help him be one of the first guy off the bench early in the season.
Jackson could also benefit from playing with the talented freshman in the second unit. If he can develop some chemistry with guys like Kobe Bufkin and Moussa Diabate, his time on the floor will only increase.
Bufkin and Jackson are similar players, as they are both guards with a high basketball I.Q. who heat up like a microwave from deep. I could see that duo coming into the game and letting it rain from three. It could be chaos if those shots aren’t falling, but they both have the chops to make plays for other guys if their shots aren’t falling.
Heading into his sophomore season, Jackson needs to develop some confidence and hit the three ball reliably to stay on the floor. If he can stay consistent offensively and prove he is worthy of playing before the game is a blowout, he could be a nice spark plug off the bench for the Wolverines.