The New Year is quickly upon us and some things are brewing in Ann Arbor as the Michigan Wolverines basketball and football programs get set for what could be a massive 2022 calendar year. Jim Harbaugh and his team head to their first ever College Football Playoff and Juwan Howard has a group of some really talented basketball players.
Still, all of us are making our lists of things we’d like to do to better to benefit ourselves and those around us with some New Year’s resolutions. Here are mine for these two programs for 2022.
Win a CFP game (and while you’re at it, the whole dang thing)
This one comes a day early from the New Year as the Wolverines will take on the Georgia Bulldogs for a chance at a national championship appearance. How great would it be for Michigan to get there for the first time since a National Championship game has existed (even dating back to the BCS era)?
The anticipation is mounting for New Year’s Eve’s Orange Bowl matchup and we’ve seen how impactful a win over Ohio State was towards the recruiting end. Now, imagine how much better it could get with a natty appearance (or even winning the whole thing) for the program.
Beat Ohio State and Michigan State in the same season
Wins against Michigan’s two biggest rivals have been few and far between under Jim Harbaugh. After seven seasons, Harbaugh finally did the unthinkable and conquered the Buckeyes to advance to the Big Ten Championship.
While the joy and splendor of that moment did not go to waste, it would have been even sweeter if Michigan was 12-0 and had beaten the Spartans as well. Topping both in the same season is what is next on the docket for Harbaugh.
Recruit and develop an elite receiver
Half of this has been done rather well in Harbaugh’s tenure. Including the 2022 class, Harbaugh has brought in 12 four or five-star recruits at the wide receiver position by 247Sports’ metrics. That includes Donovan Peoples-Jones, who was the highest-rated player in his class. Still, none have turned into elite guys for the Wolverines.
A large portion of that comes down to quarterback play, but that can no longer be a valid excuse. Cade McNamara has had a solid season this year and J.J. McCarthy has shown his five-star flashes all season long. Maybe Ronnie Bell would have been that guy had he not suffered the season-ending knee injury, but no one has really ascended to that top role in his stead. The closest is Cornelius Johnson who had a good, not great, season.
With the ascent in the quarterback room, hopefully, a receiver that is currently on the roster or will soon be can make that leap. I mean, imagine how different this team would be with one of the superstar wide receivers at Ohio State or Alabama on the squad. It would make this playoff-caliber Michigan team even better.
Develop a starting-caliber point guard
Howard has done some incredible things in his first two and a half seasons as head coach at Michigan. It’s to the point where it becomes rather difficult to say anything negative about the guy and the program.
However, one knock on him is the lack of development at the point guard position. Howard was gifted a natural leader in Zavier Simpson and a splendid combo guard in Eli Brooks by John Beilein’s staff. To his credit, he did convince Mike Smith and DeVante’ Jones to come to Ann Arbor via the transfer portal. However, he has yet to see any real gains from the recruits from his classes at the point guard spot.
The 2021 class has some guys showing a lot of early promise in Kobe Bufkin and Frankie Collins. Zeb Jackson has started to gain some footing, too, but to this point, Howard has not shown the excellence at developing guard play like he has his bigs. The talent he has in the last two classes should change that.
Shoot better from the free-throw line
Michigan resides at the bottom of free throw percentage by team in the Big Ten, shooting only 66.8%. That’s bad enough for 265th in the country according to teamrankings.com.
A large portion of those attempts has come from Hunter Dickinson and Moussa Diabate, which makes sense why the numbers are so low. In 2020-21, Michigan actually led the conference in free throw percentage, and it was a massive reason why the Wolverines were crowned Big Ten champions. If things don’t change, it will be extremely difficult to repeat.
Find what works on offense and stick to it
Last season, Michigan was the top three-point shooting team in the Big Ten and one of the best in the country, which catapulted it to the success it had. Now, shooting from beyond the arc has been a significant struggle and has cost the Wolverines some games.
When you have dominant big men on the interior like Dickinson and Diabate, it makes things rather frustrating to watch when the shots aren’t falling. Not having a true leader at point guard to settle things down and run good sets has plagued the team all season long.
Thankfully, Jones looks like he is starting to get a grasp on what Howard wants to run and is playing much better of late. Lets hope his play leads to a more structured offense that has fluidity instead of the mess fans have watched for most of this season.