Michigan marched through the first two rounds of the NCAA Tournament last season, but don’t look for the that lineup when the Wolverines open the 2022-23 season on Monday.
Michigan lost four of its top five scorers but hasn’t dropped off the national radar, entering the season ranked No. 22 — in large part because of their big man.
Team leading scorer and rebounder, center Hunter Dickinson, returns for his junior year after eschewing professional opportunities. Dickinson and his new supporting cast open the season at home against Purdue Fort Wayne on Monday.
“It is weird being a junior here. Obviously, it’s something that I didn’t expect to happen, but here we are,” he said. “Do I regret being a junior and coming back? Not at all. I’ve loved my time here at the University of Michigan and I’m very happy that I decided to come back for another year.”
As a sophomore, Dickinson averaged 18.6 points, 8.6 rebounds and 1.5 blocks for a Wolverines team that finished 19-15 and reached the Sweet 16 before getting eliminated by Villanova.
Forward Terrance Williams, a reserve the past two seasons, is expected to have an expanded role. The same goes for guard Kobe Bufkin, who appeared in 28 games as a freshman last season.
Jaelin LLewellyn, a three-year starter at Princeton, is expected to start alongside Bufkin in the backcourt. A strong freshman class includes swingman Jett Howard, forwards Tarris Reed Jr. and Youssef Khayat, and guard Dug McDaniel.
Even with annual roster turnover, winning multiple championships is still the aim, coach Juwan Howard said.
“From that level of all the great coaches and players that play in the Big Ten, that’s always going to be a challenge. Because teams do a great job of scouting you. And vice versa,” he said. “You also get to know each other because we play against each other, sometimes, not once, but twice. And then you face your opponent again in the Big Ten tournament. So that’s another one of our goals, to win that championship.”
“And then last but final, the ultimate NCAA championship,” he added. “That’s something that I’ve always been peeking at, scratching the surface since the time when I played here at the University of Michigan, and haven’t done it yet. But I’m always fired up about it. Let’s go.”
The Mastodons tied for the Horizon League regular season championship in 2021-22. They lost to Northern Kentucky in the conference tournament and Drake in the CBI tournament, finishing the campaign at 21-12.
They’re picked by the league’s coaches as the co-favorites this season along with Northern Kentucky.
“It means absolutely nothing,” coach Jon Coffman said. “We were picked ninth last year and won the regular season. … It’s great branding for our basketball program, for our university and for our city to get that recognition. But now we’ve got to go to work and earn everything.”
Guard Jarred Godfrey, who enters the season as the program’s fourth all-time leading scorer, is the Mastodons’ top player. He led the team in scoring (15.2 points per game), assists (3.8) and steals (1.9) last season.
Purdue Fort Wayne also retains three other starters — guard Damian Chong Qui and forwards Bobby Planutis and Ra Kpedi.
–Field Level Media