Michigan Wolverines basketball has gone through a roster overhaul since the abrupt end of the 2019-20 season, with only six scholarship players from last season returning for the 2020-21 campaign.
After losing seniors Zavier Simpson and Jon Teske, the winningest players in program history, the Maize and Blue saw three players transfer — sophomore guard Cole Bajema, junior forward Colin Castleton and junior guard David DeJulius. An influx of transfers came next, with the additions of redshirt junior Wake Forest import Chaundee Brown and Columbia graduate transfer guard Mike Smith. And, of course, the impressive freshman class that head coach Juwan brought in that included center Hunter Dickinson, forward Jace Howard, guard Zeb Jackson and forward Terrance Williams.
It still remains to be seen whether or not Brown will receive a waiver from the NCAA to be immediately eligible this season, but the roster composition is becoming more and more clear, especially after forward Isaiah Livers announced he is returning for his senior season in Ann Arbor, and with that, those around the country are beginning to recognize the Wolverines’ potential.
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In NBC Sports’ latest preseason college basketball rankings, Michigan checks in at No. 20 nationally.
“The Wolverines are going to have one of the better frontlines in college basketball in 2020-21, as they return Isaiah Livers in addition to Franz Wagner,” NBC Sports writer Rob Dauster wrote. “Throw in a recruiting class that includes Hunter Dickinson, and the Wolverines will be loaded.
“Their guards are old, but there are some questions about the upside of Columbia grad transfer Mike Smith and Eli Brooks. Can Wake Forest transfer Chaundee Brown get eligible?”
Dauster projected the Maize and Blue’s starting lineup to be Smith, Brooks, Livers, Wagner and Dickinson.
Five other Big Ten teams were listed in the set of rankings — Iowa (7), Illinois (9), Wisconsin (12), Michigan State (15) and Rutgers (19) — while Indiana was tabbed as a team that “just missed” the top 25.
Additionally, Big Ten Network college basketball expert Andy Katz released an early version of his conference power rankings following the NBA decisions of several key players who chose to either return to school or take their shot professionally.
“At No. 6, I’ve got Michigan, and that’s in large part because of Franz Wagner and Isaiah Livers coming back,” Katz said. “[Livers] is a potential Big Ten Player of the Year candidate — certainly All-Big Ten.”
Katz had the Wolverines as the sixth-best Big Ten group heading into the season, behind Illinois, Iowa, Wisconsin, Michigan State and Rutgers (in order).