The Michigan Wolverines’ men’s basketball team has lived up to their preseason hype so far, beating a good Buffalo team in the season opener before routing Prairie View A&M this weekend. And in each one of those games, Michigan’s freshmen have stepped up to provide meaningful minutes.
Five-star recruits Caleb Houstan and Moussa Diabate have already proven to be key parts of the rotation, while Kobe Bufkin and Frankie Collins are fighting for backcourt minutes off the bench. Will Tschetter and Isaiah Barnes didn’t get off the bench in Saturday’s blowout, so it seems safe to assume both of those guys are redshirt candidates.
Here’s a few takeaways of how the four freshman who have taken the floor for the Wolverines have looked through the first two games.
In his first five minutes on the floor, Houstan proved why he already has NBA scouts drooling: a scoring burst where he took over the game helped the Wolverines get a double-digit lead over Buffalo that they kept for most of the game.
We saw Houstan make a nice rip-through move to the basket, block a three-pointer before running floor for an and-one in transition, and make a smooth three with a confidence you just don’t see out of a lot of freshman.
The last freshman who played with as much as swagger as Houstan and always let it fly was Trey Burke in 2011-12. That confidence he plays with came through in Saturday’s win, cashing three shots from beyond the arc and finishing a nice reverse layup in transition.
Through his first two games, Houstan is averaging six three-point attempts for game. You can see a bit of confidence boost when he makes his first one and if he comes out on fire, he can help the offense set the tone early.
Hunter Dickinson is Michigan’s best player and go-to guy when they need a basket, but if he enters the draft following this season, Diabate has proven why he can shoulder the load in the post next season if he sticks around. He has converted a few easy buckets and showed patience in Saturday’s win with his back to the basket.
Fast forward to the 2:15 mark of this clip — he catches the ball in the post, takes a few dribbles while reading his defender and quickly turns to face the basket and convert on a nice looking hook shot.
Diabate has also made his presence felt on defense, showing a paint presence while standing his ground and blocking away a few shots, including a beautiful chase down block towards the end of the first half against the Panthers.
Dickinson and Diabate gives the Wolverines one of the most talented front courts in the Big Ten. With Diabate’s capabilities as a passer — he showed a nice sense of court vision on his three assists in the Buffalo game — don’t be surprised if he starts at the four later this year.
Kobe Bufkin & Frankie Collins
Both these young guards haven’t seen the floor much in the first two games, but both players have shown flashes that prove why they can be relied upon in the years to come.
Bufkin only played four minutes against Buffalo and appeared in Saturday’s game once it was decided, but he made the most of his minutes this weekend by making a three and scoring on a nice drive after a shot fake near the rim.
Collins hasn’t put up a lot of counting stats, but I liked how he came in and pushed the pace instantly against Buffalo. He has also looked decent on help side rotations, with the Wolverines not missing a beat defensively when he came in for DeVante’ Jones.
While Bufkin and Collins haven’t gotten a chance to play much, I’d love to see Juwan Howard give them more playing time as non-conference play goes along. If they can both become spark plugs off the bench, the Wolverines are going to be dangerous.