Juwan Howard is Making Michigan Basketball Look Elite. Here’s How

ASSOCIATED PRESS

No one really knew what to expect after Michigan basketball’s offseason reset.

The Wolverines lost their top three scorers from what was a very good team last season. They lost the program’s all-time winningest coach, too. His replacement is Juwan Howard, a first-time head coach who had also never coached for an NCAA program.

U-M had plenty of question marks entering this season.

And it’s answered a lot of them over the past three days.

So far, the Wolverines look like one of college basketball’s elite teams. They just won three games in as many days, with two decisive victories over No. 6 North Carolina on Thursday and No. 8 Gonzaga, 82-64, on Friday.

It’s early, and most teams across the nation are still figuring things out, but that’s kind of the point: Michigan has had to do the same thing, except with a new head coach who inherited a roster that he didn’t recruit.

The Wolverines’ early success is a testament to the job that Howard and his staff have done so far. It’s also a testament to the current roster, which could have disintegrated during the coaching transition but didn’t (there was zero attrition) and worked to acclimate to a new coach.

The season started with a thud after a lackluster second half against Appalachian State, but U-M has diced its way through opponents ever since.

The Wolverines have the profile of an elite team on both ends of the court: they take (and make) a lot of 3-pointers and shoot very well on 2s, while setting plenty of screens for their dynamic point guard. On defense, Michigan limits 3s, encourages opponents to take inefficient mid-range shots and protects the rim. That’s a winning formula, and while it sounds easy, Howard and his staff deserve credit for implementing their vision.

There’s been a notable improvement from many players, too.

Two question marks entering the season were shooting and roster depth. So far, both have been clear strengths. Entering Friday, the Wolverines had a 61.1% effective field-goal percentage, No. 2 in the nation — and that was before they shot 54% against the Bulldogs, including 52.2% from 3.

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SOURCE: USA Today, Orion Sang