Michigan Rises In Set Of 'Way-Too-Early' College Basketball Rankings
It looked like Michigan basketball's last big offseason move was going to be the adding Coastal Carolina transfer guard DeVante' Jones, but freshman center Hunter Dickinson made waves by declaring for the 2021 NBA Draft late last week, just before the declaration deadline and later than most others who are going through the process.
Now, the Wolverines have to wait — potentially up until July 7, the deadline for early entrants to return without losing their college eligibility — on Dickinson, a second-team All-America last year and the team's reigning leading scorer and rebounder.
Michigan certainly isn't the only team that doesn't know exactly what its roster will look like come Nov. 5, the beginning of the college basketball season. ESPN.com has been updating it's 'way-too-early' top-25 rankings periodically throughout the spring and summer — and the Wolverines are on the rise in the latest release.
Michigan sat at No. 11 in the April 29 release by the publication, but is now up to No. 8.
The Maize and Blue checked in third in the Big Ten, behind Ohio State at No. 5 and Purdue at No. 6. Much of the optimism surrounding the Wolverines, national writer Jeff Borzello says, is because of the questions answered in the backcourt, with fifth-year senior guard Eli Brooks and Jones expected to start the the two spots.
"Michigan continues to steadily rise in each edition of the Way-Too-Early Top 25," Borzello wrote. "The Wolverines started the offseason having significant backcourt issues and were poised to rely heavily on freshmen or untested returnees.
"But [head coach] Juwan Howard received some big news when senior guard Eli Brooks opted to return for his extra year of eligibility, giving the Wolverines a veteran presence, high-level defender and capable 3-point shooter.
"And then at the point guard spot, Howard went out and landed one of the best mid-major transfers in the country, Big South Player of the Year DeVante' Jones. Jones averaged better than 19 points at Coastal Carolina and was a very good distributor and defender."
While Dickinson is going through the draft process and his status is currently uncertain, most assume he will return.
"With Jones and Brooks anchoring the backcourt, all eyes now turn to Hunter Dickinson. The rising sophomore announced last week he planned to enter the NBA draft while retaining his college eligibility. The assumption has been that Dickinson would return to Ann Arbor for another season, but we now have to wait and see."
Michigan won the Big Ten regular-season title outright last season, and advanced to the Elite Eight despite losing star forward Isaiah Livers to injury shortly before The Big Dance began. Michigan returns just Brooks and possibly Dickinson as starters, but has the nation's No. 1 recruiting class and several key role players, including junior forward Brandon Johns, who started in Livers' place.
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