Michigan Wolverines head coach Juwan Howard spoke to the media Tuesday morning about how the season has gone so far. He also shed some light on how the team is preparing for the No. 3 Virginia Cavaliers, who come to town tomorrow.
The Wolverines are 5-1, but they have been struggling as of late. In their last three games, they got crushed by Arizona State and held on for victories that were too close for comfort against Ohio and Jackson State.
Part of the reason for these struggles is the Wolverines have started off the season shooting the ball poorly. Over their first six games, the Wolverines have only made 44.57% of their field goals (181st in the country) and 31.82% from three (250th in the country).
Jett Howard, who has become of Michigan’s best scorers, is shooting 44% from three. But the starting backcourt in Jaelin Llewellyn and Kobe Bufkin have struggled from deep so far, combining to shoot 15.2% from beyond the arc.
When asked about some of those shooting struggles, Howard said guys are taking a lot of time outside of practice to get shots up and improve their shooting stroke.
“Our team is working extremely hard in practice, getting a lot of off time,” Howard said. “When we’re here and we don’t have practice — I’m not there personally, but I can see it from afar, just hear the ball bouncing and the music playing because my office is connected to the gym. I trust our guys will do the work they need to do to go out there and, as they’ve been doing, competing, giving it all out there on the floor and doing whatever they can to help their team win. As far as if I’m worried or concerned, no, I’m not at all,”
Virginia has been playing like one of the best teams in college basketball with wins over No. 6 Baylor and No. 16 Illinois. This squad is known for playing Pack Line defense, and having all five of its starters from last season is a huge help.
“I don’t have a solution,” Howard said. “I will say this, they play hard, they all bought into the system, developed a system that coach (Tony Bennett) has taught. This year, I’ve really been impressed with how connected they are on this side of the ball, as well as the offensive side of the ball. This is a team that plays hard, plays together and are aligned on doing their jobs and doing it the right way. They definitely do a good job of making you work hard for every bucket you try to get.”
This is the first of three non-conference games against highly ranked, blue blood programs, and the only one at home for the Wolverines. After this one, they’ll face No. 19 Kentucky in London on Dec. 4, and No. 21 UNC in Chapel Hill on Dec. 21.
Howard spoke about how his team will be ending the week with that matchup overseas against the Wildcats.
“This university has done an amazing job helping the program put our kids into situations and give them opportunities to have life-long experiences,” Howard said. “Playing in London against Kentucky is a life experience that they all will look back on and say how cool it was and how exciting it was to see the world. And not only that, but taking college basketball to a different country. Hopefully those fans that are in London will embrace the Michigan basketball team, as well as the Michigan basketball spirit.”
“I think it’s going to be great, now you got two powerhouses in Kentucky and Michigan playing abroad. It’s probably going to be a bit of a different travel situation but once the ball get to bouncing, the lights on and the popcorn get to popping, both teams are going to be excited to compete on the floor in front of the London fans.