Juwan Howard had all the makings of a Final Four team last season.

Michigan almost got there, too — despite a lot of criticism and doubt early in the year. However, there was a select group in the media that saw the true potential of Howard’s team, so forecasting UM to make a run wasn’t out of the question. Once UM got on track, it attracted a lot of bandwagoners.

The Wolverines fell in the Elite 8, but they proved themselves along the way. Howard, rightfully so, was recognized as one of the top coaches in the game. In just 2 years, the former Fab Fiver has built an excellent foundation in Ann Arbor. Now entering Year 3, Howard has the ingredients to continue ascending among Big Ten and national programs.

Michigan is, once again, a basketball school. Howard has made sure of that.

He lost a lot from last year’s squad, but he still has some familiar faces. He also brought in one of the greatest recruiting classes in UM hoops history, so that bodes well for the future. At one time, it was the top-ranked class of 2022 — but having the No. 2 class is nothing to dismiss.

Here’s a look at the 2021-22 Wolverines, who are looking to repeat as Big Ten regular-season champions.

Key losses

Let’s see: Basically everyone who played a major role in the run to the Elite 8.

G/F Chaundee Brown, G/F Franz Wagner,  and G/F Isaiah Livers … should we continue? Those three were stars. Wagner and Livers are on actives NBA rosters — Livers with the Detroit Pistons and Wagner with the Orlando Magic.

No more F/C Austin Davis or G Mike Smith, either.

Howard has a rebuild on his hands, that’s for sure. Each of the aforementioned players made significant contributions last season. While things will be under construction in Ann Arbor, the Wolverines do still have a few remaining pieces from their incredible run, so it’s not like Howard has to start from scratch.


Michigan’s freshman class is one for the books; it’s top-ranked in the Big Ten and second overall in the country, per 247Sports Composite team rankings.

Highlighted by 5-star PF Caleb Houstan, 5-star PF Moussa Diabate and 4-star combo guard Kobe Bufkin, the class makes the future look incredibly bright for the Wolverines. Those three could easily see meaningful minutes this season.

Four-star SF Isaiah Barnes drew considerable attention during his recruitment. Michigan has an exciting class that’s eager to immediately contribute, per peer reviews.

“They’re all so athletic,” senior forward Brandon Johns Jr. said of the entire 6-man class on media day, per Andrew Kahn of MLive. “They’re super skilled. They’re ahead of where I feel like freshmen are supposed to be at.”

A transfer from Coastal Carolina, DeVante’ Jones brings 81 games of experience and a well-rounded skill set. He should serve as a prime example for younger players and give Howard some comfort knowing that UM has a veteran guard to help set the mental tone.


Hunter Dickinson is one of the top players in the country and, arguably, was the best in the nation last year — despite only getting second-team All-America honors. Any team would love to have Dickinson on its roster. At 7-1 and 250 pounds, he has ideal size to dominate the paint — and he does. He’ll be the literal centerpiece of the Wolverines’ scheme this season and a likely national player of the year candidate.

Dickinson averaged 14.1 points and 7.4 rebounds last season, putting him among the Big Ten’s best in both categories.

Eli Brooks has been a glue guy for the past few seasons. He’s really carved a niche for himself in Ann Arbor. He’s been one of the program’s most important role players. He’s been everywhere from starter to role guy, and has been a part of 105 team wins since his arrival in 2017-18. He’s UM’s second-leading returning scorer, averaging 9.5 points per game in 2020-21 to go along with roughly 3 rebounds and 3 assists.

At 6-8 and 240 pounds, Brandon Johns Jr. gives the Wolverines options. He’s like a lot of guys his size and length; he can shoot and play with his back to the goal. Johns has improved his 3-point shooting, sinking a career-high 36.8 percent last year as a junior.


With Howard’s momentum pouring over from last year, it’s unlikely that losing a handful of veterans will slow down the Wolverines this year. They might have the most talented roster, overall, in the Big Ten. Position-for-position, athlete-for-athlete, Michigan can compare with any team in the country.

Seeing a run for a Big Ten title seems like a logical prediction, and the Wolverines have enough to contend with Purdue and Ohio State, which are both among favorites to win the league. If Dickinson has another player-of-the-year run like last year, the Wolverines will yet again be a team that nobody wants to face.

Howard has re-established Michigan as a basketball school. Last year was a preview of things to come, and this year should serve as another significant step toward securing championships.