Budding podcasting star Hunter Dickinson should have plenty of time to hone his new craft this March.

Barring a miraculous turnaround, Dickinson and his Michigan teammates won’t have to worry about playing any meaningful games beyond the Big Ten Tournament.

The Wolverines just plain stink. They are 11-10 overall. Michigan ranks 75th (and dropping) in the NCAA NET rankings, 68th in KenPom and 74th in T-Rank. The bubble is nowhere in sight.

In Sunday’s 83-61 loss at Penn State, no one struggled more than Dickinson. He scored a season-low 6 points on 3-of-9 shooting and grabbed 2 rebounds in 23 minutes. Michigan was a staggering minus-27 when Dickinson was on the floor.

The 7-1 Dickinson was thoroughly outplayed by 6-8 counterpart Michael Henn, who was perfect from the field and finished with 10 points and 3 assists.

Thanks to Penn State’s affinity for 3-point shooting, Henn is one of the least-utilized bigs in the B1G. Henn literally hadn’t scored a basket since Dec. 29 against Delaware State. He’s been on the floor a total of 16 minutes in Big Ten play.

But Dickinson’s defense was so in absentia that Henn had a field day. Quinnipiac is the only team to allow more points to Henn than Michigan.

Maybe it’s a bit of karmic retribution for the smack-talking Dickinson, who has found a way to alienate just about every opposing Big Ten fanbase.

He’s said, “You only go to Michigan State if you don’t get into Michigan.” Called people in Bloomington “weirdos.” Derided Illinois fans as “pretty annoying” and said “nobody in the Big Ten likes Illinois.” He mean-mugged former Maryland coach Mark Turgeon in 2020 because he felt slighted in recruiting.

It’s pretty safe to assume nobody in the Big Ten likes Dickinson all that much. Maryland recently took particular glee in creating a social media post of Dickinson getting dunked on.

But this is no time to get hung up on hard feelings. If Michigan is to reach the NCAA Tournament, Dickinson must start playing at his expected all-conference level rather than simply being the Big Ten’s 4th-best center.

And, in fairness, he could also use some help.

The injury that changed Michigan’s season

Early in the season, Dickinson looked every bit like a Big Ten player of the year candidate. He averaged 19.6 points per game through Michigan’s first 8 games and went over 20 in half of them.

It’s now evident he had the perfect sidekick in point guard Jaelin Llewellyn.

The Princeton transfer tore his ACL against Kentucky on Dec. 4. Including that game, Michigan is 6-8 without Llewellyn on the floor. Freshman Dug McDaniel has played well at times, but it’s clear he’s been thrown into the deep end of the pool when he was expected to learn the ropes in a supporting role this season.

A year ago, Michigan found itself with an identical 11-9 record through 20 games.

Ironically, the 21st game was also at Penn State — but Michigan pulled out a 58-57 win thanks to 19 points and 15 boards from Dickinson. Without that win, the Wolverines would not have reached the NCAA Tournament.

Game 21 couldn’t have gone more differently this season. Penn State put the game to bed at halftime, closing the first half on an 18-2 run that ballooned its lead from 1 to 17. The Nittany Lions led by as many as 28 midway through the second half.

Looking to Bloomington weirdos for motivation

Michigan was utterly lifeless at Penn State. Though that isn’t unheard of in the Bryce Jordan Center.

Ironically, Indiana found itself in this exact position 3 weeks ago. Penn State dispatched the Hoosiers by 19, and Indiana appeared on the brink of disaster at 1-4 in the B1G.

Buoyed by a Herculean month from center Trayce Jackson-Davis, the Hoosiers haven’t lost since. Jackson-Davis is averaging 25.4 points and 13.4 rebounds per game in Indiana’s 5-game winning streak.

Michigan may need a similarly productive February from Dickinson to sneak into this year’s Tournament.

Last year, Michigan had 4 other players capable of scoring in double figures with regularity — Eli Brooks, DeVante Jones, Caleb Houstan and Moussa Diabate. Dickinson’s load was not as heavy. This season, Jett Howard and Kobe Bufkin are Michigan’s only secondary scoring threats.

It’s on Dickinson to shine now. He is the option.

He certainly believes he’s capable. When Jackson-Davis was named Big Ten preseason player of the year, Dickinson made a point of retweeting reporter Jon Rothstein’s announcement.

Retweets are not endorsements, as people like to say, but there were only 2 reasons for Dickinson to do that. As bulletin board motivation, or because Dickinson himself believed that he’s the best player in the B1G.

Sunday’s showing at Penn State showed how far that is from actually being the case. And if that doesn’t change, Michigan can forget about making a 6th straight run to the Sweet 16.

The Wolverines won’t even be in the field of 68.