Jeff Borzello and Jonathan Givony from ESPN never stop giving their takes about college basketball season, even in the heart of a dead period in the sport. The pair crafted a few Way-Too-Early pieces for the four-letter network that both should catch the interest of Michigan basketball fans. Let's begin with Borzello’s Way-Too-Early Top-25 college basketball rankings.
Coming in at No. 11 is the Michigan Wolverines with a lineup he projects to look like this:
- Frankie Collins (No. 36 in ESPN 100)
- Eli Brooks (9.5 PPG)
- Caleb Houstan (No. 7 in ESPN 100)
- Brandon Johns (4.9 PPG)
- Hunter Dickinson (14.1 PPG, 7.4 RPG)
This was written before the Wolverines earning the commitment from Davante Jones and you’d have to think that Borzello has Juwan Howard and Co. rated even higher after the reigning Sun Belt Player of the Year joins the squad.
Borzello had the Wolverines ranked at No. 17 in his last rankings that came out just after the Baylor Bears won the National Championship in early April. He admitted that it was a bit too low because of the question marks the team had with so many players considering moving on. He credited Michigan for retaining Eli Brooks in a move that “gives (Michigan) experience and one of the best defenders in the Big Ten.”
Then, the ESPN writer praised Howard’s frontcourt calling them “loaded” with Hunter Dickinson, Brandon Johns Jr., five-star forward Caleb Houstan, and five-star forward Moussa Diabate. He thinks the logjam is solved with Houstan playing the three and BJJ starting at the four with Diabate coming off the bench. We will see how that all pans out come fall.
We all know the Big Ten was one of the most competitive conferences in college basketball in 2020-21, and Borzello has no intention of that changing. Here is where the Wolverines’ conference opponents stack up:
- No. 4 Ohio State (with E.J. Liddell and Duane Washington returning)
- No. 5 Purdue (with Trevion Williams returning and adding two Top-100 recruits)
- No. 10 Maryland (with additions of transfers of Fatts Russell and Qudus Wahab and returning Eric Ayala and Aaron Wiggins)
- No. 23 Michigan State (with the addition of Tyson Walker and five-star guard Max Christie)
He projects Michigan forward and five-star freshman Caleb Houstan to be a Top-10 pick in next year’s draft process. Based on ESPN’s Future Power Rankings Index, he has Houstan being selected No. 9 overall to the Portland Trail Blazers. Former Michigan targets Chet Holmgren and Paolo Banchero go No. 1- No. 2 overall in his projections.
Then, a bit of a surprise comes in the second-round as Givony sees incoming transfer, Devante Jones, as a potential second-round pick. Jones is testing the waters this offseason, will be able to take positive feedback away and has the opportunity to prove his growth at the highest level of competition at the collegiate level. If he can do that with all of the publicity that he will receive playing for the Wolverines, he will have a chance to be drafted. Givony has the Pacers taking a flier on Jones with pick No. 50.
Now, of note, Givony does not include Hunter Dickinson in his 2022 NBA mock draft. That may be because Dickinson has yet to announce whether or not he is testing the waters this season, but it’s still a notable exclusion. Dickinson is a superstar big man, but he plays an old-school style that may not translate very well to the next level. If he cannot develop a jump shot, maybe he becomes a Luka Garza or an Ethan Happ-type player for the Wolverines. Either way, fans should be ecstatic for at least one more year of Dickinson in Ann Arbor.
While the Michigan basketball season ended just a month ago, Juwan Howard and the new-look Wolverines do not shy away from the spotlight. Expect much more noise coming from the Crisler Center this offseason and beyond as they will continue to earn the respect of the national media as a new era of Michigan basketball is fully underway.