Michigan Wolverines Basketball Expected To Repeat As Big Ten Champs
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Michigan Wolverines Basketball Expected To Repeat As Big Ten Champs

Michigan head coach Juwan Howard already has a Big Ten championship and an Elite Eight appearance under his belt in his two years on the job, and some believe it’s just the start of more to come. Athlon Sports and Lindy’s Sports publications, in fact, both picked the Wolverines to repeat as Big Ten champions.

In addition, Lindy’s tabs Michigan the No. 3 team nationally, while Athlon puts U-M at No. 5

“While Michigan is replacing four of its top six scorers in Year Three for Howard, the Wolverines should keep rolling,” Athlon writers predicted. “The Final Four is the goal, and the top recruiting class in college basketball is joining a roster headlined by national Player of the Year candidate Hunter Dickinson and a handful of experienced pieces.

“… Big Ten defenders will have to deal with [Dickinson] again. Transfer DeVante’ Jones was the best guard in the Sun Belt. With [fifth-year senior] Eli Brooks and the nation’s top recruiting class, the Wolverines will chase another No. 1 NCAA Tournament seed.”

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Michigan Wolverines basketball coach Juwan Howard is looking for a second straight Big Ten title, and analysts believe he'll get it
Michigan Wolverines basketball coach Juwan Howard is looking for a second straight Big Ten title, and analysts believe he'll get it (AP Images)

Both publications ranked Dickinson in the top 20 nationally on their lists, Lindy’s at No. 6 and Athlon No. 17. Last year’s Big Ten Freshman of the Year averaged 14.1 points and 7.4 rebounds last season. Coastal Carolina graduate transfer guard DeVante’ Jones checked in at No. 25 in Athlon, while five-star freshman wing Caleb Houstan is No. 54.

Houstan is also tabbed as both publications’ Newcomer of the Year after he helped lead Montverde (Fla.) Academy to a national title last year. Dickinson appeared on the Athlonpreseason All-Big Ten first team, while Houstan made Lindy’s second team. Both wereAthlon preseason All-Big Ten second-team picks.

As teams go, Athlon has Purdue No. 2, Ohio State No. 3, Illinois No. 4 and Maryland No. 5. Big Ten Network analyst Shon Morris agreed with those picks when we caught up with him recently.

“Aaron Wiggins moving on (to the NBA) hurts Maryland a little bit, but they’re going to be a nice team,” he said. “Michigan is going to be very good. Purdue is going to be very good, and I like Illinois and Ohio State.”

He believes Michigan State will be better (Athlon has the Spartans sixth) and that Indiana can be a sleeper after adding Miller Kopp, a transfer from Northwestern.

“Indiana is kind of bubbling under the surface,” he said. “They could be kind of dangerous. Getting Trayce Jackson-Davis back, and then Kopp going over there … it’s not going to make a whole lot of national headlines, but the one thing that team could not do last year is shoot. That kid can shoot.

“With a post like Davis, you put Kopp on one side of the floor with Jackson-Davis, you’re going to have to give up something.”

But he loves what Michigan has accomplished under Howard, and he sees big things for the Wolverines not just this year, but also in the future.

“The one thing that has impressed me … obviously, their on-court success, but a lot of people aren’t comfortable enough in their own skin to go hire a guy like [assistant] Phil Martelli,” Morris said of Howard. “To me, when he went out and did that, I thought that was a great sign.

“In my opinion, the smartest people are the ones that know what they don’t know and say, ‘hey, you know what? I know the game. I’ve been in the system, I’ve done all these things, but If I have an opportunity got get a guy as a former head coach who can help me not only develop my own pace of skill, but draw on that knowledge …’

“A lot of people aren’t that confident in themselves and comfortable enough to say, ‘I want the best.’ And he did. I give him a ton of credit, because a lot of people won’t do that.”

Between the outstanding staff, returning players and outstanding recruits incoming, Morris sees Michigan as a potential contender in the Big Ten for years to come.


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