‘Tis the season for ‘way too early’ college basketball rankings. There are plenty of questions to be answered between now and when the season begins in November, but that hasn’t stopped oddsmakers and national analysts from projecting what each top team will look like come the 2021-22 season.
After going 23-5, winning the Big Ten outright and advancing to the Elite Eight, national pundits have tabbed the Wolverines as a top-25 team heading into next season, some even putting them within the top five of their rankings.
Las Vegas is also taking notice of the Maize and Blue. FanDuel Sportsbook has Michigan as the title favorite, tied with Gonzaga, with 9-to-1 odds to be the last team standing on April 4, 2022. Meanwhile, Barstool Sportsbook and DraftKings have Michigan with the second-best national title odds at 12-to-1, behind only Gonzaga (9-to-1).
The Athletic‘s Seth Davis, who also does studio work for CBS, is the most bullish on the Wolverines, placing them at No. 2 in the country — behind only the Gonzaga Bulldogs — in his early rankings that were released Tuesday morning.
His reasoning is simple: Michigan has talent in the form of key players who are likely to return and the nation’s No. 1 recruiting class.
“The big question is whether [freshman center Hunter] Dickinson leaves for the NBA, but even if he does the Wolverines will still be a top-10 team,” Davis opined. “[Head coach] Juwan Howard has shown he is an excellent coach, and now he has assembled the nation’s No. 1 class, headlined by three McDonald’s All-Americans in [four-star power forward] Moussa Diabate, [five-star small forward] Caleb Houstan and [four-star shooting guard] Kobe Bufkin.
“Don’t count out the possibility that [senior guards Eli] Brooks or [Chaundee] Brown, and possibly both, will be back in Ann Arbor.”
NCAA.com’s Andy Katz also has Michigan at No. 2, and same with Sports Illustrated‘s Kevin Sweeney.
“Hunter Dickinson should be back as the best center in the Big Ten,” Katz wrote. “Juwan Howard will have a loaded roster.”
“This will be a very young Michigan team if Juwan Howard can’t convince some of his seniors to come back for one last go-round, but the Wolverines should be elite regardless,” Sweeney wrote.
Put USA Today‘s Scott Gleeson in the boat of those optimistic about Michigan next season, with the writer listing the Maize and Blue at No. 4, behind UCLA (1), Duke (2) and Gonzaga (3).
“The Wolverines likely lose Isaiah Livers and Franz Wagner to the NBA, but there’s a strong chance they bring back second-team All-American Hunter Dickinson and key players in the nucleus,” he wrote. “Coach Juwan Howard has hauled in a No. 1 recruiting class that’s headlined by five-stars Caleb Houstan and Moussa Diabate.”
CBS Sports’ Gary Parrish has Michigan at No. 8, also on the condition that Dickinson returns. He wrote that he expects the sophomore to be the Big Ten Player of the Year.
Watch Stadium’s Jeff Goodman also believes the Wolverines will be one of the country’s best teams no matter who returns, but he has them tabbed a bit more conservatively at No. 12 nationally. Fellow Big Ten teams Ohio State (2), Purdue (4) and Maryland (5) were placed ahead of the Maize and Blue.
“We’ll see what happens with Dickinson and also whether maybe one of Brooks or Brown returns to Ann Arbor,” Goodman wrote. “But even if one of those guys leave, Juwan Howard is bringing in a star-studded class with a trio of McDonald’s All-Americans. There’s still a lot to be ironed out, but the Wolverines should have enough talent to be in the top 20 — and maybe even higher.”
When taking a look at ESPN.com staff writer Jeff Borzello‘s top 25, Michigan fans have to scroll a bit more to find their team’s name. Unlike the other rankings listed above, Borzello is uneasy about all the uncertainty surrounding Michigan’s roster and has placed the Wolverines at No. 17.
That is, however, understandable given the projected starting lineup he listed — freshman guard Frankie Collins, sophomore guard Zeb Jackson, Houstan, senior forward Brandon Johns and Dickinson. It’s fair to assume that Michigan would surge up the rankings if, for example, Brooks and Brown announce their returns.
“This is another tough read,” Borzello began. “The Wolverines had five seniors in their top seven, while Franz Wagner is a potential lottery pick and is also expected to leave. Could any of those seniors return to Ann Arbor for another year? Isaiah Livers was injured toward the end of the campaign and missed the NCAA tournament, so he’s in a similar position as [Villanova guard] Collin Gillespie — but Livers has higher NBA draft stock and already tested the waters once last season.
“Juwan Howard will have to build around Hunter Dickinson next season, which isn’t a bad place to start, but there’s precious little returning besides the big man. Brandon Johns was great in the NCAA tournament, while Terrance Williams and Zeb Jackson were highly touted recruits who played sparingly this past season.
“Michigan does bring in the nation’s No. 1-ranked recruiting class, led by top-10 prospects Caleb Houstan and Moussa Diabate, along with top-50 guards Frankie Collins and Kobe Bufkin. Collins could be the key. There’s not much back on the perimeter.”
Borzello also had three Big Ten teams ahead of Michigan in Purdue (3), Ohio State (4) and Maryland (6).
Time will tell how Michigan’s offseason plays out, but after a stellar season in which they exceeded expectations mightily, the Wolverines are viewed in a much better light than they at this time last year.
Michigan In Early Top 25 Rankings
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