As a fan of the Big Ten and Michigan sports, seeing what has transpired in the NCAA tournament has been disappointing. We look back on these Big Ten rosters and realize how UNSERIOUS these teams were about truly competing for a Final Four. At the same time, we can look around the country, and see the formula for a contender. We are in a new era of college basketball with the transfer portal, NIL, and multiple veteran coaches retiring. Michigan basketball can either sit back and wait for things to happen, or get aggressive in constructing a contending roster. A roster that not only competes at the top of the Big Ten, but also competes at a national level. My list is being made with the assumption Kobe Bufkin and Jett Howard are headed to the 2023 NBA Draft.
Michigan basketball needs a better roster identity
There is no perfect way Michigan basketball has to structure their team, but Final Four contenders have a few things in common.
- Needle Movers: These players change the trajectory of your team with their presence and consistency. (Kobe Bufkin, Eli brooks, Muhammad Ali Abdur-Rahkman)
- Sophomore+ Pros: 1st Round type of draft picks who are not projects, mature, have at least one college year under their belt. (Franz Wagner, Moe Wagner, Nik Stauskas, Trey Burke)
- High Impact Transfers: Talented transfers who only care about finishing their careers the right way, and will accept any role to win as many games as possible. (Chaundee Brown, Charles Matthews, Duncan Robinson)
- Veterans: “Getting older” ties in to high impact transfers, but a serious roster needs grown men. These veterans will also help develop the younger players who were recruited into the program.
Guards that Michigan basketball should look at
Amaree Abram: Abram is a 6’3″ transfer out of Ole Miss who can play on or off the ball as a combo guard. He wouldn’t have problems playing alongside Dug McDaniel after seeing Dug play so well with Kobe Bufkin in conference play. Abram is seen as a pro prospect in the 2024 NBA draft with his ability to drive, create off of the ballscreen, and hit open shots. I expect him to explode his sophomore season with his playing style.
Jameer Nelson Jr: Explosive guard out of Delaware, about 6’1″ 200 pounds. Nelson is also able to play alongside Dug McDaniel. He is a talented and gifted athlete who may have the quickest first step in the transfer portal. He finishes at the rim while being a capable shooter from deep. He took much tougher shots this year with a team who wasn’t as talented, so you saw his 3pt% dip. In 2021-22 he willed his team to the NCAA tournament where he was 36-37% from deep.
Dalton Knecht: He is a 6’6″ 200 pound guard/wing out of Northern Colorado. Knecht is easily one of the best players in the transfer portal and not even giving him a phone call is malpractice if you are a program who is serious about contending within the conference and for a Final Four. If Kobe Bufkin returns, I still think they go hard for him to play the small forward position for a three guard lineup. He has long arms, good off the dribble, good shooter and athlete. Michigan can not overthink this, he should be one of the top names in the portal they need to go after.
John Tonje: The 6’5″ 220 pound three-level scorer out of Colorado State is a matchup problem with his size. He can play both the shooting guard and the small forward position. Tonje is an aggressive player off the bounce, capable of hitting tough 3pt shots. Well balanced scorer who ended up in the 93rd percentile nationally in half court offensive efficiency. Tonje is the type to excel in a free flowing offense while surrounded by talent. UPDATE: Committed to Missouri
Big Wings/Versatile Forwards for the Wolverines
Hakim Hart: The 6’8″ 210 pound wing is one of the more versatile players available in the portal. He is going to go through the NBA Draft process but if he chooses to return to college, it will not be at Maryland according to 247sports beat writer Jeff Ermann. He brings energy, versatility, offense, tough defense, and winning plays to the lineup. Hart brings intangibles that contribute directly to winning and he can be used in so many different ways. Surrounding him with multiple playmakers will make his life easier. On a winning team, he will be one of the more consistent players game in, and game out.
Jamison Battle: The 6’7″ 220 pound Minnesota transfer left George Washington to see if he could play at the high major level. That was answered fairly quickly while not necessarily playing for a winning program with recent success. Battle is someone who I see checked out a bit this year and needs a change of scenery. This will be his last go, and he has never been to an NCAA tournament. Winning is all that matters at this point in his college career, and joining a program who is looking to increase the talent and veteran presence at the small/power position, he would be a great fit at Michigan.
Kel’el Ware: The 7’0″ 210 pound Oregon transfer is in the portal after his freshman season. He was a top 10 talent coming out of high school and fits the mold as a starting power forward. He can handle the basketball, rebound at a high level, and be able to hit the outside shot. At one point this season, he showed his versatility running the small forward position along with two bigs. He was able to defend guards, wings, and big men throughout the year. Ware had a rollercoaster type of season in the Pac12 but his talent is undeniable. I would not expect him on campus for more than one season because of his lottery/mid 1st round potential in the 2024 NBA Draft.
The bottom line for the Michigan Wolverines in the transfer portal
Michigan basketball should be all set at the big man position with Hunter Dickinson, and 2nd-year center Tarris Reed. The roster is in dire need of game changing perimeter players who immediately add maturity, veteran leadership, versatility, and talent. These are five players who I am extremely high on to check many of the missing boxes from this past season, and due to their enrollment status should not have an issue with the admissions process. As of today, the portal has roughly 1,000 players and that number will increase daily as more teams finish their season. Look out for updates during this chaotic time of year.
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