clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

Breaking down Michigan’s front court depth after Papa Kante requests release from NLI

The Wolverines might have to play some small ball next season.

NCAA Basketball: Wisconsin at Michigan Rick Osentoski-USA TODAY Sports

The front court depth for the Michigan Wolverines has taken quite a hit this offseason. Not only has Hunter Dickinson entered the transfer portal, but on Tuesday, 2023 center Papa Kante announced his requested release of his National Letter of Intent.

While it stinks losing out on a talented recruit, this opens up a scholarship to get another big man in the transfer portal, which is set to close on May 12.

The Wolverines only have a few weeks left to land another post player, so they have to act quickly. Let’s break down Michigan’s current depth at the 4 and 5, and a few players Michigan could pursue even further with Kante gone.

Get ready to see a LOT of Tarris Reed Jr.

The freshman big man became a fan favorite mid-way through the season, as he first saw meaningful minutes in the overtime loss to Iowa. He played alongside Dickinson and proved he could guard an NBA wing in Kris Murray, all while being a force on the boards.

With Dickinson and Kante not coming to Ann Arbor, expect Reed Jr. to play the 5 the majority of the time he’s on the floor. He provided great energy off the bench last season, and I’d expect him to be the starting center to start the year.

After shooting just 40% from the charity stripe his freshman year, we’ll need to see Reed Jr. improve as a free throw shooter because Michigan will likely need him on the floor at the end of games.

Additionally, I want to see him improve as a back-to-the-basket scorer. He flashed a quick baby hook, but he mostly scored off dump downs, lobs and rebounds. If he can develop a mid-range shot, he has the potential to be one of the top scorers for Michigan.

Can I interest you in some small ball?

We saw Michigan go to the two-big lineup a lot late in games last season, but with how the roster currently shakes out, we might see the Wolverines play some small ball next season.

While it’s concerning for Michigan to have just one pure center on the roster, this gives Michigan a chance to utilize a style of play we haven’t seen much in the past few years.

As talented as Dickinson was in Ann Arbor, there wasn’t always room to drive with him commanding attention in the post. With Reed Jr. off the floor, I’d like to see Michigan try some smaller, 5-out lineups, which can create space for good drivers like Dug McDaniel and Caleb Love and give three-point shooters good looks.

Seton Hall transfer Tray Jackson is 6-foot-9 and shot 37.5% from three last season — maybe he spends some time as the small ball 5. Same goes for Will Tschetter, who looked good in spurts last season.

Terrance Williams II seems to fit best at the 4, but he could play the 5 in a pinch. In those small lineups, we could see guys like Youssef Khayat and Jace Howard have to step up and play the 4. We don’t know much about redshirt freshman Gregg Glenn, but Kante leaving gives him the chance to earn more time at the 4 and 5.

Michigan may need to play small ball this season out of necessity, but it has plenty of time to experiment with lineups and find what works.

A few transfer portal names to track

If Jaelin Llewellyn gets his extra year of eligibility approved, that means 12 scholarships are accounted for, meaning Michigan has a scholarship available to pursue another big man.

Michigan has reached out to plenty of talented players in the portal, including a few quality big men. It has reached out to John Hugley IV — Pitt’s leading scorer in 2021-22 — and Yohan Traroe, a five-star center who played sparingly at Auburn that was heavily recruited by the Wolverines. Either of those guys could slide into the rotation and contribute at the 5, and there’s still plenty of other transfers to choose from.

As Juwan Howard has shown this offseason — and through his entire coaching tenure — he’s not afraid to find talented transfers and bring them to Ann Arbor. Hopefully he can land another big man to provide some much-need front court depth.