University of Michigan men’s basketball team finished their season last week,
when all NCAA sports were shut down due to the COVID-19 pandemic. They didn’t get to play in the Big Ten
Tournament or the NCAA Tournament, so their final record is the same as
their regular season record: 19-12 (10-10 in the Big Ten), 9th place
in the Big Ten.
2019-2020 season was a rollercoaster for Michigan. The ride to the top of the biggest hill
started with wins over three “cupcakes”, along with an impressive win over a
team that finished the season ranked #7 (Creighton),
for a 4-0 start. The top of the biggest
hill was the Battle 4 Atlantis
tournament in the Bahamas. Michigan
wasn’t picked to do much in the tournament, but they won three games in three
days, beating a good Iowa
State team and two Top-10 teams [(#6)
North Carolina and (#8)
Gonzaga], winning the championship, and moving to 7-0 and a #4 ranking in
the AP poll. The championship game was
on 11/29/2019, and that was the top of the hill, the high water mark, the best
moment of the whole season. It didn’t
last long. From that point on, Michigan
was a 0.500 team: 12-12 (10-10 in the Big Ten).
very next game was four days later, at
(#1) Louisville, and it didn’t go well.
In fact, Michigan lost three of the next four games after the Battle 4
Atlantis tournament: the loss to Louisville, a
home win over Iowa, a
loss at Illinois, and a
home loss to (#10) Oregon. None of
these losses were particularly surprising, but none of these teams were any
better than Creighton, North Carolina, or Gonzaga.
finished up their non-conference schedule with a couple more “cupcakes”, then
they resumed Big Ten play, and it was a disaster: a
lopsided loss at (#14) Michigan State, a
home win over Purdue, an
embarrassing loss at Minnesota, a
so-so loss at Iowa, a
home loss to Penn State, and a
home loss to (#21) Illinois. That’s
a 1-5 stretch, and it knocked Michigan out of any chance of contending for the
Big Ten title. This was the bottom of the
biggest hill, the lowest point, the worst moment of the season. A closer look at the season at this point
will show a couple disturbing trends:
0-5 record at this point in true road games (Louisville, Illinois, MSU,
Minnesota, and Iowa). Sure, it’s tough
to win on the road, but Michigan probably should have won two or three of those
games (Illinois, Minnesota, and Iowa).
home losses at this point (Oregon, Penn State, and Illinois). Michigan went 17-1 at home in the 2018-2019
season and 15-1 in the 2017-2018 season.
Having three home losses at this point in the season was not a good
finally won a true road game in their next game, at
Nebraska, and they followed it up with a very impressive win on a (not so)
neutral court (Madison Square Garden) over
(#25) Rutgers. They were robbed by
the officials in the next game, another home loss, this time to
Ohio State, but they bounced back with five wins in a row: home
vs. (#16) Michigan State, at
vs. Indiana, at
Rutgers, and at
Purdue. Things were looking better,
but this was just the top of another hill on the rollercoaster.
last four games of the season were another disaster. Michigan
lost badly at home vs. Wisconsin, lost
badly at (#23) Ohio State, beat
lowly Nebraska at home for Senior Night, and lost
badly at (#9) Maryland. This was the
bottom of the final hill on the rollercoaster, and that’s where we get off.
back on the season, there were some high points and some low points:
Battle 4 Atlantis championship was definitely the highest point of the
season. At the time, the win over (#6)
North Carolina looked huge, although UNC ended up with their worst season in
years. The win over (#8) Gonzaga ended
up being much more impressive, since Gonzaga ended up 31-2 and ranked #2 in the
final AP poll.
over a few other teams that ended up ranked in the final AP poll: (#7)
Creighton, (#9) Michigan State, and (#25) Iowa.
emotional Senior Night win, sending Zavier Simpson and Jon Teske off in style.
lowest point of the season was the loss at Minnesota. Sure, Minnesota can be tough to beat in The
Barn, but they ended up with a 15-16 record, including 5 home losses. Michigan should have won that one.
home loss to Penn State really stung.
This was one of the better teams that PSU has had in the last 20 years,
but they didn’t end up with a record much better than Michigan’s (21-10, 11-9
in the Big Ten). Michigan should have
won that one as well.
home loss to Ohio State was a travesty.
The officials called a ridiculous “flagrant 1” foul on Simpson in the
last minute, and it was just enough to hand the game to OSU.
home loss to Illinois was very depressing.
Once again, this was one of the better Illinois teams in a while, but
they weren’t any better than teams Michigan beat earlier and later in the
season. They just caught Michigan in a
handed out mid-term grades in early January, after the last non-conference
game, when Michigan had a record of 10-3 (1-1 in the Big Ten), and were still
in the AP Top 25. Those grades, listed
first for each player, are mostly better than the final grades.
Cole Bajema (Inc./Inc.)
– Cole only played in 10 games, and scored 26 points. He led the team in overall shooting percentage
(10-for-13 = 76.9%), 3-point shooting percentage (4-for-7 = 57.1%), and free
throw percentage (2-for-2 = 100.0%). He
just didn’t play much, mostly in “garbage time”. He could be a valuable player next season.
Jaron Faulds (Inc./Inc.)
– Jaron only played in 5 games, and scored 4 points. He’s on the practice squad, and only played
in “garbage time”.
Franz Wagner (B/B) –
Franz missed the first 4 games of the season with a broken wrist, but he played
pretty well the rest of the season. He had
some very impressive games, and several games where he was no help at all. He was the #1 option for firing up a
3-pointer, and he shot a mediocre percentage (41-for-132 = 31.1%). If he can get his 3-point shooting
straightened out, he’ll be the most valuable player on the team next season.
Colin Castleton (B/C) –
Colin got his chances this season, and he rarely took advantage of them. He had too many games where he just drifted
around aimlessly out there. He showed
that he has the tools to contribute, he just didn’t have the mental aspect
David DeJulius (B+/B-) –
David had a strong first half of the season, but he cooled off in the second
half. He was a pure scorer in high
school, and he showed flashes of that at times this season. He just needs to be more consistent.
Brandon Johns, Jr. (B/B)
– Brandon filled in nicely for Livers when he was injured, but he still had too
many games where he didn’t contribute much.
He is very good at offensive rebounding.
Adrien Nuñez (C-/D) –
Adrien just isn’t working out. He’s
gotten his chances, and he hasn’t delivered.
He played in 22 games this season, and started in 4 games when Wagner
was injured, but only scored 44 points.
He was brought in as a “sniper”, but his 3-point shooting has been
anemic: 11-for-43 (25.6%).
C.J. Baird (Inc./Inc.) –
C.J. only played in 7 games, and scored 8 points. He’s on the practice squad, and only plays in
Eli Brooks (A-/A-) – Eli
is a great candidate for “most improved player”. He did a good job at shooting guard, and even
played some point guard when needed. He
led the team in 3-point attempts and makes, and shot a nice percentage
(52-for-143 = 36.4%). He was a distant 2nd
on the team in assists (59).
Austin Davis (C+/B+) –
Austin is another candidate for “most improved player”, especially during the second
half of the season. It took 2.5 seasons,
but he finally started playing with smoothness and confidence. He shot a nice percentage (52-for-75 = 69.3%),
and he cut way down on his silly fouls.
Isaiah Livers (A/A-) –
Isaiah is the most versatile player on the team, and arguably the most
valuable. Before he went out with a
groin injury near the end of the non-conference season, he was leading the team
in scoring (13.6 points/game) and 3-point shooting percentage (29-for-58 =
50.0%). When he came back, he was
(Inc./Inc.) – Rico only played in 4 games, and scored 2 points. He’s on the practice squad, and only plays in
Luke Wilson (Inc./Inc.)
– Luke only played in 6 games, and scored 3 points. He’s on the practice squad, and only plays in
Zavier Simpson (A/A) –
Zavier was the undisputed leader of this team, and he did a good job at
it. He led the team in scoring and
assists, and finished 3rd in the nation in total assists and assists
per game. He even shot a decent
percentage from 3-point range (31-for-86 = 36.0%).
Jon Teske (A/B) – Jon
was a beast for the first half of the season, then he all but disappeared. He had a few good games in the second half,
but nothing compared to the games he had in the first half. Opponents figured out how to neutralize him
offensively, and he let several opposing big men run wild, especially Luka
Garza of Iowa.
where things get tricky: who will be on the team next year? Here are all the moving parts as of now:
two seniors (Simpson and Teske) are graduating.
players with eligibility remaining could possibly leave early for the NBA
(Livers and Wagner). Who knows what they’ll
decide to do. Livers missed 10 games due
to injuries, and Wagner was really up-and-down.
I don’t think the NBA will be too excited about either of them.
has already been offered a spot for his redshirt 5th year, and he
Wade (6’2”, 185 pounds, G) transferred from Duquesne to Michigan after
playing for one year there (2018-2019).
He had to sit out this season (2019-2020), but he’ll be eligible to play
with sophomore eligibility next season.
He’s a “preferred walk-on”, and he’ll mostly be a practice squad player.
great unknowns are the incoming freshmen.
one recruit (Zeb Jackson) has signed a Letter Of Intent, but four other
recruits are considered “hard commits”: Hunter Dickinson, Jace Howard, Isaiah
Todd, and Terrance Williams. If all five
of these players actually show up on the team next season, Michigan will be a
legitimate contender for the National Championship. They’re that good.
However, I would be surprised if Todd actually plays college basketball. He and his father have given vague hints that
he might play for a year overseas, then enter the NBA Draft. If that happens, Michigan will still be a
contender for the Big Ten title, but not the National Championship. Todd is the key.
Regardless, here’s a quick look at all five of them:
- Hunter Dickinson
(7’2”, 255 pounds, C) – Hunter is a 4-star center, the #6 center in his
class. He’s a big, tough kid, a
traditional “back to the basket” center.
I can’t wait to see him play. I
expect him to be a starter on the team next season.
- Jace Howard (6’8”,
210 pounds, F) – Jace is Coach
Howard’s older son, and he’s a 3-star forward. He could end up as a preferred walk-on, due
to the big scholarship crunch (see below).
He’s definitely going to be on the team next season.
- Zeb Jackson (6’2”,
160 pounds, G) – Zeb is a 4-star point guard, the #10 point guard in his class. He’s definitely going to be on the team next
- Isaiah Todd (6’10”,
195 pounds, F) – Isaiah is the crown jewel of this recruiting class. He’s a 5-star power forward, the #2 power forward
in his class. If he goes to college, he’ll
almost certainly be a “one and done”.
Williams (6’6”, 215 pounds, F) – Terrance is good friends with Hunter
Dickinson (above), and the two of them were a “package deal”. He’s a 4-star forward, the #15 power forward
in his class. I expect him to be on the
team next season.
those five commits, there are at least five more players interested in
Aiken (6’0”, 175 pounds, G) – Bryce is a grad-transfer from Harvard. He’s a good “shoot first” point guard, but
Michigan is set for point guards, so ???
Barry (6’2”, 180 pounds, G) – Brendan is a grad-transfer from
Dartmouth. He’s a very good shooting
guard, but Michigan has a good shooting guard (Brooks) returning, so ???
- Greg Brown (6’9”,
195 pounds, F) – Greg is a 5-star power forward, the #1 power forward in his
class. The current predictions have him
going to Texas, or maybe Memphis, but not Michigan.
Christopher (6’5”, 215 pounds, G) – Josh is a 5-star shooting guard, the #3
shooting guard in his class. The current
predictions have him going to Michigan.
Smith (5’11”, 180 pounds, G) – Mike is a grad-transfer from Columbia. He’s a good “shoot first” point guard, but
Michigan is set for point guards, so ???
where is Coach Howard going to put all those players? I have no idea. There is a real logjam in the scholarship
count. Will any of the returning
scholarship players transfer? I haven’t
heard anything concrete, but Castleton and Nuñez are good candidates. It will be very interesting to see who
actually shows up next fall. Until then,
it’s hard to make any worthwhile predictions.
season is over. Wait ‘til next year.
back in mid-October for another exciting season of Nothing But ‘Net.