Juwan Howard was supposed to be “the guy” for Michigan. He had all of the qualifications: he was a former star player, good recruiter, and by all accounts, a good coach. But it hasn’t worked out that way. Yet.
When Arizona State obliterated Michigan 87-62, a lot of people were surprised. However, that shouldn’t have been the case. Arizona State shot 60.4% from the field, while Michigan shot a measly 33.9%. In addition, Arizona State shot 57.9 percent from beyond the arc, while Michigan shot just 18.2 percent. How can a team expect to win when their opponents out shoot them by that much?
Michigan’s problem goes deeper than just talent. On paper they should be great—they have one of the best big men in the country—which says a lot in “The Year of The Big Man”. Unfortunately, against Arizona State, everything broke down. The usually reliable Hunter Dickinson went just 6-14 from the field, which would be fine had the rest of the team not shot 31 percent from the field. Kobe Bufkin and Jett Howard in particular struggled, as the two went just 4-19.
The Arizona State game reveals something that no Michigan fan wants to hear: Michigan’s offense is broken.
Michigan made the NCAA Tournament last year as an 11 seed and managed to make some noise, before eventually losing in the Sweet Sixteen to Villanova. Their offense was simple—get the ball to Hunter Dickinson in the high post and let him do his thing, and it worked. In addition to allowing Dickinson to set ball screens, it also allowed him to shoot threes which made him practically unstoppable.
That hasn’t happened this year. Last year, they surrounded Dickinson with shooters like Eli Brooks and Caleb Houstan. The offense worked really well during March Madness, but it hasn’t translated to this year. One part of Dickinson’s game that has been noticeably absent this year is his lack of three point shots. While the offense wasn’t always dependent on his ability to shoot three point shots last year, it was a nice bonus when he did. When Dickinson was on, there was no stopping him.
That statement has held true for this year as well. When Dickinson plays well, he carries Michigan to victory. We saw that against Eastern Michigan when Dickinson scored 31 points while going 13-17 from the field. We saw it again against Ohio, when Dickinson led Michigan to a victory over the Bobcats—he scored 24 points on 9-16 shooting.
But against Arizona State, Dickinson went cold. It’s no flaw of Hunter Dickinson—players have bad games. It happens to everyone. It is a fault of Juwan Howard, for building an offense that relies so heavily on one player and allowing Michigan to get humiliated by Arizona State.