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Season preview: Potential lineup combos for Michigan men’s basketball

Which one of these do you think would be the best?

Texas v Michigan Photo by Michael Hickey/NCAA Photos via Getty Images

As we’ve been covering at Maize n Brew for months now, the 2021-22 Michigan Wolverines’ men’s basketball team has a lot of talent with a good mix of veteran leadership and youth.

As the season goes along, I would love to see Juwan Howard and company experiment with different lineups before conference play hits in December. Here are a few lineup combos Michigan fans can expect to see, plus a few I would like to see the Wolverines try out.

Starting lineup: DeVante’ Jones, Eli Brooks, Caleb Houstan, Brandon Johns Jr., Hunter Dickinson

This is expected to be the starting lineup to open the season for the Wolverines, featuring a grad student, a senior, two sophomores and a freshman.

Dickinson and Brooks would likely be the main offensive options in this group, but don’t be surprised if Caleb Houstan takes more shots as the season goes along. Brandon Johns Jr. can be a great rebounder who doesn’t need the ball to make an impact. And transfer point guard DeVante’ Jones is a very good on-ball defender who can push the pace.

Bench lineup: Zeb Jackson, Kobe Bufkin, Isaiah Barnes, Terrance Williams II, Moussa Diabate

I can’t imagine this exact lineup will play a lot of minutes together, but they are likely the second-string player at each of their respective positions.

Jackson, Bufkin and Frankie Collins will be fighting for minutes off the bench in the backcourt. I would expect Bufkin to get the most minutes out of that group due to his reliable three-point stroke. Diabate and Williams II can be interchangeable pieces, providing length and versatility on the offensive end.

There aren’t a lot of pure small forwards on the roster in general, which is why I have Barnes in this slot. He’s one of the forgotten pieces from the 2021 recruiting class who can be a starter for the Wolverines in a few years.

Best defensive lineup: Jones, Brooks, Barnes, Johns Jr., Diabate

Coaches have spoken highly of Jones’ offensive game, and I also love his defensive ability. He’s got some of the most active hands in all of college basketball, averaging nearly three takeaways a contest. His 2.8 steals per game ranked him third in all of DI college basketball last season.

Brooks showed good defensive ability in stretches last season, and Diabate and Barnes are two of the best defenders in Michigan’s 2021 class. They are both recruits who can guard multiple positions and seamlessly switch on screens, and could gain confidence by getting easy buckets from takeaways.

Dickinson mentioned in preseason interviews he has improved upon his defensive foot speed but until we see that come to fruition, I like the grit and speed of Johns Jr. and Diabate in the front court a little more defensively

Best shooting lineup: Brooks, Bufkin, Houstan, Will Tschetter, Johns Jr.

This is a fun lineup that could score with the best of the Big Ten thanks to their ability to stretch the floor.

Brooks shot nearly 40 percent from three last year, and Bufkin and Houstan are two of the best three point shooters in the entire 2021 class. Johns Jr. hit a few big threes when called upon in the NCAA Tournament last season, and Michigan fans shouldn’t be surprised if the sharp-shooting Will Tschetter is one of the leading scorers for the Wolverines in a few years.

Big lineup: Jackson, Houstan, Williams II, Diabate, Dickinson

The Big Ten has a lot of dominant big men who should be filling up award ballots, and as conference play ramps up, I would love to see the Wolverines try this lineup jam-packed with size.

Jackson is the tallest of Michigan’s guards, and he and Houstan could facilitate in this lineup while jacking up a few threes. Williams II said at media day that he has been practicing at the three, and if he can hit the deep ball reliably, he should be a key bench piece for the Wolverines. I wrote about Diabate and Dickinson potentially playing together this summer, as Diabate is going to be able to get so many good looks this season with defenses worried about Dickinson in the post, and can also cover up for Dickinson’s defensive miscues.

The Wolverines should experiment with playing Diabate and Dickinson together, as the upside a lineup featuring this duo would be high on both sides of the floor.

Small ball lineup: Jones, Brooks, Bufkin, Houstan, Johns Jr.

This is a lineup I really want to see the Wolverines experiment with, especially if Dickinson is in foul trouble. No one is this group is taller than 6-foot-8, but this lineup could possibly switch on everything and could space the floor with a nice five-out offense.

There’s so much offensive talent in this group that it could be the lineup that goes on a 10-0 run and shifts the momentum of a close game in February. Jones’ ability to create shots for everyone in this lineup is fun to think about. He should be able to dive to the rim and find the open shooter in this group with the space this lineup creates.

The best part about having a deep roster like Michigan’s is the Wolverines can try things out and see what works for them before they get into conference play. Michigan fans should be excited to see what the coaching staff can come up with as the year goes along.