Here, we power rank Michigan’s 12 scholarship players, with the factors being each player’s expected contributions this season (role, positional importance, etc.) and talent level.
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12. Freshman Guard Jace Howard
11. Junior Guard Adrien Nunez
10. Freshman Guard Zeb Jackson
It will be an adjustment for Jackson to transition to playing in the back court in the Big Ten, but we may see some of him because he can compete athletically and Michigan is thin at the lead guard spot.
9. Freshman Forward Terrance Williams II
8. Junior Forward Brandon Johns
Johns has experience, after scoring 6.0 points per game and grabbing 3.9 rebounds per contest. He’s showed flashes of explosiveness on offense, with six games of scoring in double figures, but consistency has been what he’s lacked. The team’s best offensive rebounder, Johns will be the backup four and will have a role down low as well. If he has taken steps in his game, he could raise the ceiling of Michigan’s entire team and could end up much higher on a future power ranking.
7. Fifth-Year Senior Center Austin Davis
It wouldn’t surprise at all to see Davis out there as the starter in game one, but by the end of the season, we believe he will be back to his bench role, which isn’t a knock on him at all.
Davis averaged 18.3 points and 9.7 rebounds per 40 minutes last season, but his sweet spot is about 10-15 minutes per game.
6. Freshman Center Hunter Dickinson
Not only is Dickinson known as a high-level scorer out of high school, but he’s “on a climb” as a passer early in his Michigan career, associate head coach Phil Martelli said last week.
“The first thing that jumps out at you about Hunter is he’s an extraordinary passer — either from the high post or even from the low post,” Martelli said.
At 7-foot-1, Dickinson will also have to adjust to the level of play defensively, with the Big Ten owning several of the country’s big men, including national player of the year runner-up Luka Garza out of Iowa, who Dickinson worked out with this summer.
There will be growing pains at times, but Dickinson has the highest upside at center and should make an immediate impact as well.
5. Fifth-Year Senior Guard Mike Smith
There’s a strong likelihood Smith starts at the point guard spot for Michigan, replacing three-year starter Zavier Simpson. Unlike Simpson, however, Smith will not have the ball in his hands the majority of the time. Instead, he’ll be responsible for distributing it to Michigan’s talented wing players and picking his own spots as a scorer.
In his four years at Columbia, Smith proved he can put the ball in the bucket, averaging an Ivy League and team-best 22.8 points per tilt last year. Early reports out of Michigan’s practices also indicate that Smith is one of the top long-range snipers on the team and has led the squad in many shooting drills. Additionally, he averaged a team-best 4.5 assists per contest last season for the Lions.
4. Senior Guard Chaundee Brown
Brown is polished as a scorer and rebounder, after averaging 12.1 points and 6.5 rebounds in the ACC last season. He missed eight games with a leg injury but started 15 of the 23 contests he appeared in.
The 6-5, 215-pounder can lock down opposing guards and wings and will be one of the top defensive players on Michigan’s roster.
3. Senior Guard Eli Brooks
The likely starter at shooting guard also took a step forward offensively a year ago, averaging 10.6 points per game and scoring in double figures 13 times. In a Zoom call with reporters recently, Brooks said he’s working on his decision-making skills while handling the rock on ball screens. We’d bet he takes the next step in that regard, too.
Brooks shot the three at 36.4 percent last season and is a threat on the catch and shoot.
2. Senior Forward Isaiah Livers
An elite shooter from three (40.4 percent for his career), Livers stepped up the rest of his game last season, improving his ball handling to become more of a threat on the dribble drive. Livers said recently he’s continued to work that part of his game, now that the ball will be in his hands more after Simpson’s departure.
The Kalamazoo, Mich., native and former Mr. Basketball in the state is taking on more of a leadership role this season, as well, finding his voice. He was named to the Naismith Award watch list ahead of this upcoming season.
1. Sophomore Guard Franz Wagner
Wagner’s outside shot wasn’t what it was expected to be last season (31.1 percent), but the wrist injury surely played a factor. He should be much improved from long range this year.
The German is an elite defender on the wing and continued to progress offensively as last season wore on. He is primed to take the next step and become not only Michigan’s best player, but one of the top wings in the country. Wagner was flat-out dominant in the team’s Maize vs. Blue scrimmage last Friday.
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