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Daily Brews: Way-too-early rankings for Michigan basketball after Diabate and Houstan departures

Departures are hurting the Wolverines.

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NCAA Basketball: NCAA Tournament South Regional-Villanova vs Michigan Daniel Dunn-USA TODAY Sports

We are still months away from college basketball season kicking off, but that doesn’t mean the national media has stopped predicting their way through the 2022-23 season.

This past week, the Michigan Wolverines lost two key contributors from a squad that made the Sweet Sixteen: Moussa Diabate and Caleb Houstan. Both decided to pursue their careers in the NBA, the Wolverines are left with only one returning starter, Hunter Dickinson.

Some are concerned about what that means for Juwan Howard as he navigates the waters of a treacherous Big Ten schedule. One of those skeptics is Seth Davis at The Athletic. This is what he had to say about Michigan’s roster changes as he ranked the Wolverines No. 22 in his latest rankings:

The Wolverines got a double dose of bad news on Wednesday as 6-8 freshman forward Caleb Houstan and 6-11 sophomore forward Moussa Diabate both elected to remain in the draft. Both were projected as returnees in my original rankings, so their departures knocked the Wolverines down several spots, but Michigan will benefit from the addition of Jaelin Llewellyn, a 6-2 senior who averaged 15.7 points an 4.1 rebounds for Princeton last season. It was surprising that 6-1 freshman Frankie Collins opted to transfer to Arizona State considering he was in line to become the Wolverines’ starting point guard next season. The Wolverines will welcome back 7-1 junior center Hunter Dickinson, who will once again be one of the top centers in the country.

Davis previously had the Wolverines at No. 9 on his board prior to the season. It shows the influence Diabate and Houstan’s departure could have on this team.

ESPN and Jeff Borzello offered similar sentiments. However, it wasn’t as notable as a drop in the rankings. Borsello previously had the Wolverines at No. 14, but with Diabate and Houstan gone, they fell back to No. 20 in his rankings. Here’s why:

“Perhaps the biggest headline coming out of Ann Arbor over the past few weeks was ESPN’s report that the Los Angeles Lakers reached out to Juwan Howard about their head-coaching vacancy, but Howard opted not to discuss the opening. It makes sense, given that Howard is entering a season where he’ll be coaching sons Jett Howard and Jace Howard. NBA rumors are nothing new for Howard, who had interest from the Boston Celtics last spring. It also won’t be the last time an NBA franchise pursues Howard. The reason for the rankings drop, however, is the likely departure of Caleb Houstan. He has moved into the top 50 of ESPN’s draft rankings and also skipped the NBA combine, giving the impression he has a first-round promise. If Houstan does leave, Howard could turn to powerful forward Terrance Williams in the starting lineup.”

Here is his projected starting lineup:

Jaelin Llewellyn (15.7 PPG at Princeton)

Jett Howard (No. 41 in ESPN 100)

Terrance Williams II (4.7 PPG)

Moussa Diabate (9.0 PPG)

Hunter Dickinson (18.6 PPG)

Back over at The Athletic, their heads of college basketball got together to chat about all the roster changes coming for some of the most prominent teams in the country. When asked which team was hurt the most this offseason, Dana O’Neil said, it’s the Wolverines:

Probably Michigan. The loss of Caleb Houstan and Moussa Diabate means the Wolverines are now without four of their top five scorers from last year. Now the caveat is that the returner is their best player, Hunter Dickinson, but that still makes Michigan mighty young in both age and experience. After Dickinson, the next returning player with the most minutes is Terrance Williams, and he averaged just 15 a game. Juwan Howard is going to need some young guys to grow up in a hurry, including his bumper crop of freshmen, and will rely heavily on Princeton transfer Jaelin Llewellyn to settle things down from his point guard spot. The good news for the Wolverines: much of the Big Ten is in a similar state of flux.

All in all, it looks like the national media was very high on Houstan and Diabate and the potential with their progression in an offseason with Howard. Unfortunately, the Wolverines are going to have to look elsewhere for their production and heavily lean on Dickinson and Llewllyn for efficiency on both ends. Projecting how that might finish is certainly difficult, but there is no doubt Howard will have his hands full crafting this roster into a contender.