NCAAB: A lot of new faces hope to propel Michigan basketball back to the Big Dance.

darren cooper
Darren Cooper


  • After going 18-16 last year and reaching the NIT, Michigan lost two stars to the NBA Draft and standout center Hunter Dickinson transferred to Kansas.
  • The Wolverines brought in multiple transfers from the portal, including Tray Jackson (Seton Hall) and Olivier Nkamhoua (Tennessee).
  • Michigan Coach Juwan Howard continues to recover from heart surgery in September and former St. Joseph’s coach Phil Martelli is serving as the interim head coach.

Michigan basketball meet Colorado University football.

Ok, the comparison isn’t exactly perfect, but the University of Michigan Wolverines basketball team will look very different than the one the fans watched last year. Colorado basically flipped their entire roster under Coach Prime.

Michigan used and got used by the transfer portal, so entering the 2023-24 season, there are more questions than answers.

The best Michigan sportsbooks supply plenty of answers and odds on the college basketball season. BetMGM has Michigan a darkhorse to win the Big Ten title at +2500. FanDuel lists the Wolverines odds at +4000 to win the conference, and also has them at +12000 to win it all.

Who’s Gone?

When Michigan basketball fans look at the preseason odds, they’ll see one name they recognized. Former Michigan big man Hunter Dickinson is among the favorites to win the Wooden Award as college’s basketball’s best player, however, Dickinson transferred out of Michigan and was scooped up by Kansas.

The reasons are complicated, but mostly because of greater NIL opportunities (read: money). Michigan also lost starting guards Kobe Bufkin and Jett Howard to the NBA Draft. Bufkin is now with the Atlanta Hawks and Howard with the Magic.

Wolverines fifth-year coach Juwan Howard had major heart surgery in September to report an aortic aneurysm. He is expected to return to the bench this season, perhaps in time for the Wolverines season opener Nov. 7 against UNC-Asheville.

Who’s Wearing Maize and Blue Now?

Michigan’s most experienced returning starter is guard Dug McDaniel who averaged over eight points a game last year, and he is surrounded by new faces to Michigan.

See, the transfer portal works both ways. Kids leave and kids roll in.

Tray Jackson, who played at both Seton Hall and Missouri, is expected to be part of the Wolverines rotation, along with former McDonald’s All-American Nimari Burnett, who transferred in from Alabama and before that, Texas Tech. There’s Olivier Nkamhoua, a grad transfer from Tennessee, who averaged 10.8 points a game last year with the Vols.

Michigan is also hoping Princeton transfer Jaelin Llewellyn will contribute after an ACL injury, and Howard’s other son Jace, to return to the line-up after a knee injury.

How far can Michigan Go?

Michigan is one of the biggest unknowns in the Big 10 entering the season. Just because kids come in from the transfer portal doesn’t mean they aren’t talented. A lot of times kids are just looking for greater exposure and an opportunity…and yes, NIL money matters too.

Juwan Howard has already proven Michigan can win and can send players on to the NBA. That’s what players want.

But there’s still so much uncertainty around the Wolverines now. Juwan Howard is out and the new players need time to mesh together. When your best player leaves like Dickinson did, that’s a huge red flag. The Big 10 is tough – Purdue and Michigan State are top five teams - Michigan will need to get it together quickly to compete.

Born and raised in Louisiana, Darren Cooper has a fond appreciation for bayous, Mardi Gras beads and the sports betting industry. Darren has worked for multiple print and online publications since 1998, primarily as a sports columnist in the Northeast. He’s covered a Super Bowl (it was a blowout), the World Series (same) and the NBA Draft (man, those guys are tall). For the last few years he’s dug deep into the sports gambling industry as it exploded across America, learning how the legal sausage is made and how while all the sportsbooks look the same, they all have different identities and styles. He’s learned to always bet within his means -- and take the under. When not in front of his computer creating, Darren spends time with his three boys. He runs, reads and is always looking for the next big thing to write about.