We knew Michigan needed a scoring punch next season after losing the top three scorers from last season; Hunter Dickinson is talking to schools in the transfer portal and Kobe Bufkin and Jett Howard are heading to the NBA.
The Wolverines’ newest transfer should be able to provide that punch, as UNC standout Caleb Love transferred to Michigan.
Love led the Tar Heels in scoring this past season, averaging 16.7 points per game to go along with 3.3 rebounds and 2.8 assists. He wasn’t as efficient as he was the year prior, but he’s still an incredibly talented guard who will be relied on heavily.
Let’s break down Love’s game and project how much we can expect from him with the Wolverines.
Love is a bucket
In terms of his sheer scoring ability, Love is the most talented guard Michigan has had since Trey Burke.
Love is a maestro with the ball in his hands, dictating the pace of play and using his quickness to drive past his opponent and get into the paint. Last season, he showed off his abilities as a passer, working excellently with Armando Bacot. He also does a fantastic job on ball screens — he can finish at the rim and near the free throw line with a nifty floater or a quick runner. If the defense pounces, he can find the rolling big for an easy bucket.
Love has incredibly deep range, and we know he can show up in big moments. He had an incredible 2022 tournament run, helping North Carolina to the title game thanks to some memorable scoring performances, including 23 points against Marquette, 30 points against UCLA and 28 points against Duke.
Knowing he’s good enough to lead a solid, but not great UNC group to the title game is encouraging. I love his moves around the basket, as he slithers around defenders before kissing it off the glass. And when he’s feeling it from behind the arc, he’s impossible to stop.
There’s a lot to like about Love, who gives Michigan a much-needed scoring punch and a veteran guard on what will be a team in need of leadership.
Areas of concern
While Love instantly steps in and becomes Michigan’s best player on the current roster, he’s not very efficient. He took 15.1 shots per game last season, and Michigan just lost three players who took 10 shots or more per game, so we could see a lot of Love with the Wolverines this season (the puns write themselves sometimes).
When he’s on fire, that’s a great thing. But as good of court vision as Love has, he’s not a true point guard and he tends to play hero ball a bit when things are going south. As Brandon Anderson from Tar Heel Blog told Maize n Brew earlier this weekend, he was forced to at times with R.J. Davis out a portion of the year, but Love doesn’t have great shot selection.
His three-point shooting also fell off a cliff from 2021-22 to 2022-23, as he went from shooting 36.0% to 29.9% from deep. It’s great he has the confidence to keep shooting, but when you shoot more than seven three-pointers a game and make just over a quarter of them, that leads to some negative offensive possessions that can kill you in tight matchups.
I’m also concerned Love may have peaked after his sophomore season. Hopefully he can unlock another gear at Michigan, because the Wolverines are going to need him to shoulder the load on offense a lot.
Way-too-early expectation of Love at Michigan
I think it’s reasonable to expect Love to be Michigan’s leading scorer next season, barring a surprise transfer or Dickinson leaving the portal and returning to Michigan.
I love the idea of him playing off Dug McDaniel, as they could gel well together with their slashing ability. I also think he can get the best out of Tarris Reed Jr., who could be the beneficiary of Love’s dump down passes like Bacot was the past few years. The two Missouri natives in Love and Reed Jr. could get an awesome two-man game going that could lead to open shots for Michigan’s wings.
Expecting Love to average anywhere from 15 to 20 points per game is reasonable. Michigan’s biggest problem last season was closing games; the Wolverines have now picked up a talented guard who has been in lot of tight games and has made a lot of clutch shots.
Also, Love joins a roster that is still quite young, which may force him into a leadership role. I’m excited to see how he plays with the rest of this roster.
Love is one of the best guards with experience in college basketball, and as we’ve seen March after March, having those players on your team can win you a lot of games. Hopefully he can gel with the rest of the Wolverines and Michigan can provide him with a good supporting cast around him.