Note: The original draft of this article had Joey Baker coming back, but he has since opted to go pro. The predictions in this article will be edited to reflect that shortly.
It’s been a busy offseason for the Michigan Wolverines. The men’s basketball program will be without their three leading scorers from last season, with Hunter Dickinson entering the transfer portal and Jett Howard and Kobe Bufkin forgoing the rest of their eligibility to the NBA Draft. Including Isaiah Barnes, who also entered the portal, and Joey Baker, who hired an agent and will be pursuing a pro career, Michigan will lose at least five scholarship players from last year’s roster.
Juwan Howard and company have also recruiting a trio of talented players from the portal. Caleb Love, one of the most talented guards in the portal who led North Carolina in scoring last season, is transferring to Ann Arbor. He’ll be joined by Nimari Burnett and Tray Jackson, who were bench contributors at Alabama and Seton Hall, respectively.
This busy offseason is far from over for the Wolverines. Jaelin Llewellyn is waiting to hear from the NCAA on whether or not he will receive another year of eligibility, but he said he wants to be back in Ann Arbor if he gets it.
Michigan’s playing rotation is bound to look very different next season, so let’s have some fun and predict what the starting lineup will be. For this article, we’re assume Llewellyn is able to return to Michigan.
The backcourt: Dug McDaniel at PG, Caleb Love at SG
These are probably the two easiest spots to predict. After averaging 16.7 points last season, Love is now Michigan’s best scorer and plays at a position of need.
I see no reason why McDaniel won’t be starting again. With Dickinson, Howard and Bufkin all leaving, McDaniel averaged more points per game (8.6) than any other returnee. His freshman season had some highs and lows — as you would expect with any freshman guard — but he showed enough potential in conference play to warrant getting that starting spot back.
I could see the Wolverines mixing things up as the season goes along, maybe even starting Llewellyn certain games to shake things up. But I’d be shocked if McDaniel and Love aren’t the regular starting guards next season.
Starters in frontcourt: Nimari Burnett at SF, Terrance Williams II at PF, Tarris Reed Jr. C
With Baker and Jett Howard leaving, Michigan’s roster is really lacking small forwards; the only guy on the roster who has played there regularly is Jace Howard. With how the roster currently shakes out, I think Michigan will elect to try the three-guard lineup and play Burnett at small forward. He’s a bit undersized at 6-foot-4, but I think he could play well off of McDaniel and Love.
Reed Jr. is the obvious choice to start at the 5. He has big shoes to fill, but he showed he can be an excellent rebounder, perform well in the pick-and-roll. He also isn’t afraid to get physical and can guard a wide range of opponents, slowing down both Kris Murray and Trayce Jackson-Davis at times last season.
The biggest question mark in this starting group is at power forward. There are three obvious options in Terrance Williams II, Tray Jackson and Will Tschetter, plus Gregg Glenn projects as a 4 coming off his redshirt season.
Jackson is a fresh face who has a lot of college basketball under his belt and out of the rest of the 4s, he’s easily the best three-point shooter, so it wouldn’t surprise if he started some games. Same goes for Will Tschetter, who started late in the year and looked good in short spurts.
To start the season, I think Williams II gets the nod. He’s one of the longest tenured players in the Howard era, he was a captain last season, and if him, Jackson and Tschetter are all neck-and-neck in preseason practices, I think Williams II will at least start to begin the season as a seniority nod, but I wouldn’t be shocked if he’s moved to the bench if he struggles to start the year.
We just hit mid-April, and a lot can change between now and the start of the season. Let us know in the comments who you think will be starting for the Wolverines next season.