The Michigan Wolverines have had a busy offseason to this point as the roster sorts itself out for the 2021-22 season. Gone are seniors like Mike Smith, Chaundee Brown and Isaiah Livers. Franz Wagner is off to the NBA, while a top transfer and the No. 1 recruiting class in the country are added to the mix.
Michigan will bring back a nice blend of new pieces with veteran stalwarts, at least in the starting lineup. Most of the impact from the 2021 recruiting class appears as if it will be felt off the bench, which speaks volumes about what is on the roster.
Here is an updated look at how things look.
Lead guard: DeVante’ Jones, senior
As of now, we give Jones the nod to handle point guard duties. Frankie Collins is a top-50 recruit and will have a chance to supplant him here, but Jones has proven himself to be a scorer, distributor and willing rebounder in his college career thus far. Making the jump from the Sun Belt to the Big Ten might be more of a challenge than it was for an Ivy Leaguer in Mike Smith, but all of the traits are there to make this a great fit in whatever role Jones will play.
Off-ball guard: Eli Brooks, fifth-year senior
Brooks has always been at his best in his Michigan career when he has played off the ball and became the eraser of the other team’s best guard. Getting him back for an extra season is huge and the addition of Jones helps him keep his role intact, as well.
Small forward: Caleb Houstan, freshman
Houstan is a projected lottery pick in the 2022 NBA Draft before he even sets foot on campus and there is very little to suggest he will not be a plug-and-play starter. His skill-set is comparable to what the team is losing in Isaiah Livers, so it should not be a big adjustment — or drop-off in production — from what the Wolverines previously had.
Power forward: Brandon Johns, senior
Michigan had to change its look when Livers went out injured to end this past season. Johns was inserted into the starting lineup and played the best stretch of basketball since arriving in Ann Arbor. Johns is more of a throwback power forward that has the ability to slide into the paint and play the five in certain scenarios. He may not have to do that as much if he gets an expected expanded role next season.
Center: Hunter Dickinson, sophomore
Dickinson was an All-American as a freshman and should only get better this offseason with more work in the gym. Now, he has the benefit of going through the NBA Draft process to know what he truly has to focus on to be a pro prospect. We know from his high school tape that he has the ability to stretch the floor and knock down shots from the outside, too. If he can unlock that skill and apply it to the college game, he could put himself into the National Player of the Year conversation.
Bench: Moussa Diabate (Fr.), Frankie Collins (Fr.), Zeb Jackson (So.), Kobe Bufkin (Fr.), Terrance Williams (So.), Isaiah Barnes (Fr.), Will Tschetter (Fr.), Jace Howard (So.), Adrien Nunez (Sr.)
Depth was one of Michigan’s biggest strengths last year and they should be even better in that area in 2021-22. Outside of Will Tschetter, Jace Howard and Adrien Nunez, everyone listed here is expected to have a consistent role this year. One of the players that are seemingly on notice is Zeb Jackson, who could be on the outside looking in for minutes with the additions of Jones, Collins, and Bufkin. This could be the biggest offseason of his career if he is to become a fixture at Michigan.
It stands to reason that whoever loses out on the point guard battle will be the sixth man off the bench, followed by Diabate. Diabate should be Michigan’s “backup” center, especially if Johns sticks in the starting lineup. He brings a lot more from a talent and athleticism standpoint than Austin Davis did and could wind up being a lottery pick himself.
There is still a long offseason ahead and a lot to sort out, but one cannot help but love how this roster has shaken out for Michigan. Howard is getting whoever he wants and nabbing players that completely buy in. The continued success in roster building and the culture in place should keep Michigan in contention for Big Ten Championships and beyond.