The best time of the year on the sports calendar is here, and unfortunately the 2022-23 Michigan men’s basketball team won’t be a part of the NCAA Tournament.
As a bit of a consolation prize, the Wolverines will be a 3-seed in the NIT and will host their opening round match-up against Toledo. Maize n Brew will be there in person to cover that game.
Without Michigan in the tournament, it may be hard to figure what to root for. There’s tons of options; you can pick the teams in your bracket, you can root for the teams you bet on, or you can root for complete chaos and hope that as many lower-ranked seeds pull off the upsets that make this time of year so beautiful.
If you do want to root for some former Michigan players, a few of them are playing in NCAA tournament. Three guys on last season’s roster will participate in March Madness — here’s a check-in on how their college basketball careers have gone since leaving Ann Arbor.
Frankie Collins, Arizona State
2022-23 stats: 9.9 points, 4.2 rebounds, 4.4 assists per game, 39.4% on field goals, 33.8% from three, 63.2% from free throw line
Frankie Collins was a fan favorite for the Wolverines last year, as he was the backup point guard most of the year who stepped up big-time in the NCAA tournament win over Colorado State.
After Jaelin Llewellyn transferred to Michigan from Princeton, Collins entered the transfer portal a day later. With the Sun Devils, Collins has started all but one game for the Sun Devils this season. He’s Arizona State’s fourth-leading scorer and has scored 10 points or more 19 times this season.
Collins and the Sun Devils play in the First Four, as they have to beat Nevada before getting the chance to play TCU in the Round of 64. Arizona State edged out Michigan on the bubble to get into March Madness, partially because they beat Michigan by 25 in mid-November and partially because they hit a half-court buzzer beater to beat Arizona.
Brandon Johns Jr., VCU
2022-23 stats: 11.8 points, 5.3 rebounds, 0.8 blocks per game, 51.9 FG%, 29.5 3FG%, 71.2 FT%.
Johns Jr. had his moments at Michigan, but lost playing time last season due to his offensive struggles and Moussa Diabate playing so well at the 4. The East Lansing native was voted a captain and has taken on a bigger role with VCU, starting all 33 games and sitting as the second-leading scorer for the Rams.
After winning the A-10 outright, the Rams are a 12-seed in the tournament, and they face Saint Mary’s in the Round of 64. The winner of that game faces the winner of UConn and Iona.
VCU is really hot right now, largely thanks to the play of Johns Jr. It feels like we see a double-digit seed make the Sweet 16 every year, and I think this is a great draw for the Rams
Zeb Jackson, VCU
2022-23 stats: 17.3 minutes, 5.3 points, 1.5 rebounds, 1.8 assists, 40.3 FG%, 19.6 3FG%, 79.1 FT%
Jackson didn’t play a whole lot in two seasons at Michigan, but he’s contributed off the bench for the Rams this season.
The biggest moment of Jackson’s season came in mid-February, when Jackson hit a buzzer beater to beat Rhode Island on the road.
“That play arguably saved the Rams season,” said George Templeton of Rams Rewind when asked about Jackson’s contributions this season. “If Jackson doesn’t make that shot then VCU might not be where they are right now. If they had lost that game it would’ve been 2 losses in a row going into a huge game with Fordham. That play for me is THE play of the year for VCU so far.”
Bonus round: Former Michigan Wolverines to root for in the NIT
A pair of teams featuring former Wolverines will be competing to win the NIT.
David DeJulius is the second-leading scorer for the Cincinnati Bearcats, averaging 14.5 points per game to go along with 5.2 assists. He’s also knocked down 35.7 percent of his threes this season.
Collin Castleton is the leading scorer for the Florida Gators, averaging 16.0 points and 7.7 rebounds in 26 games. Castleton hasn’t played since a win at Ole Miss on February, when he broke his hand setting a screen.
Cincinnati and Florida are both 4-seeds in the NIT.