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The state of Michigan women’s basketball

The Michigan women’s basketball team has just four remaining players on the roster after six transferred, including star Laila Phelia.



Michigan women's basketball
Kevin Jairaj-USA TODAY Sports

End of the 2023-24 Michigan women’s basketball season

The Michigan women’s basketball team finished its season in the NCAA Tournament for the sixth straight year, facing Kansas in the first round. Although the Wolverines lost their first-round game, the fact that they made the tournament was a win in itself after hovering in and out of the bubble and adjusting to a large roster turnaround all season long.

Despite making the tournament, Michigan’s season ended without making it to the second round for the first time since 2017. In 2017, the Wolverines didn’t even make the NCAA Tournament, claiming the WNIT championship instead.  

The way the season ended for Michigan women’s basketball wasn’t a huge surprise due to the roster’s inexperience playing together, rather the most surprising part has been the aftermath.

After the season: Transfer portal

Just 18 days after losing to the Jayhawks, the Wolverines have six players in the transfer portal, three graduating seniors, and just four remaining players on the roster.

The biggest name entering the transfer portal was star player Laila Phelia. Phelia entered the portal after averaging 16.8 points, 3.6 rebounds and 2.0 assists in 35.0 minutes per game in her junior season. She was recognized as an All-Big Ten First Team selection by both the coaches and media as well as a Big Ten All-Tournament Team selection.

The news of Phelia transferring is a huge loss for Michigan women’s basketball as she has led the team on both offense and defense for the last two seasons. Her USA Basketball experience and team-leading points per game will be severely missed in Ann Arbor.

Chyra Evans, Taylor Woodson, Taylor Williams, Elise Stuck, and Cameron Williams all entered the transfer portal as well, in addition to Lauren Hansen putting her name down for the WNBA Draft. While Stuck, Cameron, and Taylor Williams were all key contributors off the bench for Michigan, they’re all entering their senior or graduate seasons and have only one year of remaining availability. 

Losing Evans and Woodson is more damaging than meets the eye as Evans started nearly every game in Big Ten play this past season at the 5 and Woodson provided crucial minutes on defense while coming off the bench. Evans and Woodson, a rising junior and sophomore, respectively, would have played a multitude of minutes this upcoming season for the Wolverines, but will instead play elsewhere.

Moving to next season: What’s next?

Don’t get me wrong, losing Phelia and eight other players is very concerning. Not to mention, as it stands right now, Michigan only has one remaining starter from last season and four total returners. But there is hope for the upcoming season.

With Jordan Hobbs as the lone returning starter, she brings key experience as a rising senior to the rest of the roster. Syla Swords and Olivia Olson highlight a five-player incoming freshman class who are primed to make a major impact in their first season as potential starting guards. Swords and Olson have already showcased their abilities as 2024 McDonald’s All-Americans and Top-20 recruits in their class according to ESPNW recruiting rankings

Besides, Michigan and head coach Kim Barens Arico haven’t even dipped their toes into the transfer portal to fill those six open roster spots. Picking up an experienced forward could potentially fill the missing piece needed for Michigan’s lineup for next season.

What will remain to be seen is how this completely new team will gel. As we saw this season, the Wolverines never totally clicked and will look to flip that switch as soon as they can into the season. But with parts of the roster continuing to move, it’ll take some time before we know exactly what the lineup will look like.

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Zach is a current undergraduate student at the University of Michigan with multiple years of sports writing and broadcasting experience. He currently works as a sports editor and writer for The Michigan Daily and is now a writer for Blue By Ninety, covering many sports around Michigan athletics.