The 2021-22 Michigan Wolverines’ men’s basketball team looked good in their 12-point victory against Buffalo in the season opener Wednesday.
There’s a lot to like about this basketball team, who won against a squad far from a cupcake; the Bulls are projected to win the MAC and make the NCAA Tournament.
After re-watching the game, here are some takeaways from the win.
Hunter Dickinson is going to be a problem for so many teams
Thanks to Buffalo rebounding well and Michigan hitting a dry spell on offense, Buffalo climbed back into this game, cutting Michigan’s lead to five with seven minutes left and turning a blowout into a two-possession game.
When the Wolverines needed a bucket, they turned to Dickinson who helped seal the victory with some key buckets down the stretch.
Racking up 27 points and six rebounds, Dickinson dominated inside. He finished over both shoulders, showed a nice floater and made all the easy buckets off offensive rebounds and dishes from Eli Brooks.
Dickinson was like an offensive tackle at points, clearing space for Brooks to drive and opening the senior up for buckets down the stretch with some massive screens.
The big man proved why he should be a player of the year candidate, and it wasn’t against a slouch of an opponent; Buffalo has depth in the front court and lead the MAC in rebounding last year, but there were times in this game where Dickinson looked like he was playing against high schoolers.
Dickinson showed clear improvements from last year, showing more patience when a double team came and looking a little more nimble on defense. If he continues to dominate, the ceiling for Michigan basketball is through the roof.
Terrance Williams II is a true glue guy and played a key part in the victory
Williams II is a big reason why Buffalo didn’t tie the game up in the second half.
Jeenathan Williams (32 points, eight rebounds) should get some NBA attention, and through the first three quarters of this game looked like the best player on the floor. But when Williams II locked in and guarded him in the first half, he wasn’t able to match Dickinson’s buckets down the stretch.
Combine that with some key threes and some improved confidence from midrange, and Williams II proved why he deserves to be on the floor in close games.
His positional flexibility on defense and improved offensive game make him a key part of success for the Wolverines.
An encouraging start from Caleb Houstan
Houstan got his second foul halfway through the first half and was pretty quiet in the second half, but his stretch of play in the first few minutes showed why NBA scouts have their eyes on the freshman already.
In the first five minutes of play, Houstan made a nice rip-through move to the basket, blocked a three pointer before running floor for an and-one in transition, and made a smooth three, taking over the game for a few minutes.
He also showcased his incredible court vision, finding fellow freshman Moussa Diabate in transition for a big dunk to extend the lead to 12 and forcing Buffalo to call a timeout.
Houstan didn’t do much in the second half, but that stretch to open the game showed why the freshman is a projected lottery pick.
Michigan has options at the 4
The Wolverines flexed their flexibility in the front court on Wednesday, playing Williams II, Diabate and Brandon Johns Jr. all at the four.
Williams II played well down the stretch, and Diabate showed flashes of greatness, finding teammates on offense, getting a few big blocks and playing with a confidence not a lot of freshman have.
Johns Jr. started the game and looked decent defensively, but forced his shot a little bit, only going 1-5 from the field.
As I said in my bold predictions piece, I wouldn’t be surprised if Johns Jr. lost his starting spot as long as Diabate and Williams II continue to play this well.
With the Wolverines experimenting with lineups, I wouldn’t be surprised if all three guys start at the 4 at some point in the season.
Having a lot of versatile forwards is a good thing, and I’d love to see the Wolverines experiment with Houstan at the 4 in smaller lineups.
Wolverines handled the second half Buffalo surge well
Thanks to matching the Wolverines’ physicality, playing fast, and Jeenathan Williams playing so well, Buffalo surged back in the second half, cutting the Michigan lead to single digits and staying within striking distance for a good portion of the last 20 minutes.
The Michigan offense got a little complacent in the second half, but they locked in on the defensive end, forcing a lot of Buffalo misses while relying on Dickinson, Williams II and Brooks down the stretch.
Games like this early in the season are huge for a young Michigan team. It would have been nice to blow out Buffalo by a bit more, but a game played with a fast pace against a quality opponent will only help the Wolverines in the long run.
There should be plenty of times in conference play when teams will come surging back in the second half, so it’s good for the Wolverines to get tested early in the year.
A few quick bonus takeaways
-I was pleasantly surprised to see Adrien Nunez get eight minutes off the bench, but he looked good in those spot minutes, hitting a big three and making two clutch free throws. The more depth in the backcourt for Michigan, the better.
-Speaking of the backcourt, I love the speed DeVante’ Jones plays with. He set the tone early with a steal and layup 90 seconds into the game. The transfer didn’t give Ronaldo Segu a lot of room to breath, and showed a high basketball I.Q., hopping in a few passing lanes to make life hell for the Bulls. He may not be the offensive spark plug Mike Smith was, but the defense and speed in transition he brings should help the Wolverines a ton.
-I loved to see Frankie Collins look up the floor and push the pace when he came in as the backup point guard. Kobe Bufkin only played four minutes and didn’t get much time to settle in. I was surprised to see Nunez and Collins get off the bench before him, so hopefully he’s not lost in the shuffle with this deep team.
-I know I’m supposed to hate Purdue guys, but Robbie Hummel is undeniably a great color commentator. He did a great job breaking down the game while making it entertaining. I can’t wait to listen to him during conference games.