The University of Michigan was able to put itself back in the college basketball national title picture in 2021, with an Elite Eight appearance and a top seed and favorable odds in the NCAA Tournament.
Can we expect more of the same from the Wolverines in 2021-22? Juwan Howard seems to have oddsmakers believing in his chances.
Michigan a top NCAA odds contender at sportsbooks
Michigan has entered the season ranked No. 6 in both the Associated Press Top 25 and Coaches Poll.
Oddsmakers appear to think even higher of the Wolverines.
According to BetMGM Sportsbook, Michigan sits at +1200 to win the NCAA Tournament this year, which is tied for second-shortest odds. Gonzaga is the favorite at +600, while UCLA and Villanova join the Wolverines at +1200.
According to BetMGM, Michigan is currently getting the most tickets on national championship wagers. Michigan is getting 13.5% of the tickets, but just 10.5% of the handle.
Memphis (+1800) is getting the highest handle at 25.4%. Only the Tigers and Wolverines are in the 10%+ range for handle at the sportsbook.
In the Big Ten Conference race, Michigan finds itself as the favorite by BetMGM. U-M is listed at +250 to win the regular-season title. Purdue sits close behind at +300, while Ohio State is at +450. In-state rival Michigan State is listed at +900.
Juwan Howard on a fast trajectory
Juwan Howard is entering his third season at his alma mater.
The 2019-20 season cut short by the COVID-19 pandemic saw Michigan go 19-12 overall and 10-10 in the Big Ten.
Last year, Howard earned himself AP Coach of the Year honors after leading Michigan to a 23-5 record with a 14-3 mark in the competitive Big Ten.
The Wolverines cruised to wins over Texas Southern, LSU and Florida State in the NCAA Tournament, advancing to the East Regional final before being one of many teams upset by No. 11 seed UCLA. It was Michigan’s fourth Elite Eight appearance since 2013.
Hunter Dickinson leads returning class
Michigan will have some holes to fill in the 2021-22 season, but a big concern was avoided in the offseason when Hunter Dickinson elected to return for a sophomore campaign.
The 7-foot-1 center was the Big Ten Conference’s freshman of the year and a second-team All-American last season. As a freshman, Dickinson averaged 14.1 points, 7.4 rebounds and 1.4 blocks per game. He shot 59.8% from the field and 74% from the charity stripe.
According to BetMGM, Dickinson is among the favorites to win the 2022 Wooden Award for the best player in the nation. Dickinson is listed at +800 to win, sitting only behind co-favorites Drew Timme of Gonzaga and Paolo Banchero of Duke.
BetMGM has Dickinson getting 4.9% of the Wooden Award tickets right now, but just 1% of the handle. Trayce Jackson-Davis of Indiana (+2000) is getting 12.2% of the tickets, but a whopping 46.2% of the handle.
Top recruiting class aims to replace scoring loss
Although Dickinson is back this season, Michigan lost four of its next five leading scorers to the NBA Draft.
Isaiah Livers (13.1 ppg), Franz Wagner (12.5), Mike Smith (9.0) and Chaundee Brown (8.0) all took off for greener pastures, taking a combined 42.6 points per game off the roster. Austin Davis (5.4) also graduated.
That leaves a lack of experience outside of Dickinson and senior guard Eli Brooks. Brooks put up 9.5 points and 3.1 assists per game, while shooting close to 40% from the 3-point arc.
Michigan is bringing in a big six-man recruiting class that ranked tops in the nation for the 2021 class.
Leading the group is Canadian forward Caleb Houston (6-8) and French power forward Moussa Diabate (6-10). Guards Kobe Bufkin (6-4) and Frankie Collins (6-1) were in the ESPN Top 100 for the class as well.
Also in the mix this season is senior transfer point guard DeVante’ Jones. Jones comes from Coastal Carolina, where he averaged 19.3 points, 7.2 rebounds, 2.9 assists and 2.8 steals per game last season.
UNC highlights nonconference slate
Michigan gets its 2021-22 season started Nov. 10 at home against Buffalo.
The Wolverines have an interesting nonconference schedule, taking part in Coaches vs. Racism at the Capital One Arena in Washington D.C. on Nov. 13. But that game is against Prairie View A&M.
U-M also takes on Seton Hall at home on Nov. 16 in the Gavitt Tipoff Games, while heading to the Roman Main Event on Nov. 20-21, where it will face UNLV and either Arizona or Wichita State.
The marquee nonconference game on the schedule as of now is a Dec. 1 trip to North Carolina for the ACC-Big Ten Challenge.
As usual, conference play will be far from a breeze, as the Big Ten should again be a top conference in the nation. The Wolverines’ most difficult stretch comes Jan. 8-18.
Over that time, Michigan will host MSU (Jan. 8) and Purdue (Jan. 11), travel to Illinois (Jan. 14) and then host Maryland (Jan. 18).