Rosters around college basketball are, for the most part, set for the 2021-22 season, and summer workouts are in full swing.
The Michigan Wolverines had some moving parts during the offseason, but ultimately got freshman center Hunter Dickinson back and brought in redshirt junior Coastal Carolina transfer point guard DeVante’ Jones, who also went through the NBA Draft process but decided to return to college.
Coming off winning the outright Big Ten regular title and making an Elite Eight appearance, the Wolverines are unsurprisingly near the top of preseason rankings, checking in at No. 7 in ESPN.com analyst Jeff Borzello’s recently updated top 25.
Michigan Wolverines basketball beat Florida State in the Sweet 16 last season. (USA TODAY Sports Images)
The Maize and Blue are the second highest ranked Big Ten team, trailing only Purdue at No. 6. Gonzaga stands at No. 1, with (in order) Kansas, UCLA, Villanova and Texas slotting behind the Bulldogs and making up the top five.
While Michigan is just outside the top five, there’s not much separation between the teams not named Gonzaga. Barstool Sportsbook has the ‘Zags as the clear favorite to win the national title at 7-1, but lists UCLA and Villanova at 10-1 and Purdue, Michigan, Kentucky and Texas at 12-1.
Borzello thinks all of those teams — certainly including Michigan — have a shot to cut down the nets next April.
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“Hunter Dickinson ran his decision down to the final days before announcing he was returning to Ann Arbor for his sophomore season,” he wrote. ‘With Dickinson — and DeVante’ Jones — officially back in the fold, the Wolverines are undoubtedly a Big Ten championship and Final Four contender once again.
“Dickinson was crucial. While he was never projected as a first-round pick, his impressive freshman season put him in position to potentially be a one-and-done player. Now that he’s returning, he’s likely a preseason All-American and will fight with [Illinois’] Kofi Cockburn, [Purdue’s] Trevion Williams, [Ohio State’s] E.J. Liddell and [Indiana’s] Trayce Jackson-Davis in a frontcourt-heavy race for Big Ten Player of the Year honors.
“Dickinson was one of the most dominant freshmen in the country, sprinting out of the gates by averaging 17.5 points and 7.9 rebounds over his first 11 games, shooting 70.9 percent from the field. He tallied six double-doubles and had five 20-point efforts against Big Ten opposition. He’ll take a step forward during his second year in college, too.”
While Michigan lost three starters — Franz Wagner, Isaiah Livers and Mike Smith — and its sixth man — Chaundee Brown — the Wolverines have brought in the nation’s No. 1 recruiting class, which includes two five-stars in wing Caleb Houstan and forward Moussa Diabate.
The Maize and Blue have no shortage of talent, and it’ll be up to head coach Juwan Howard and his staff to fit the pieces of the puzzle together, like they did masterfully last season.
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