NCAA Men's Basketball

Struggling No. 24 Michigan takes on San Diego State

It's too early in the season to say that No. 24 Michigan is at a crisis point at the moment.

However, it's safe to say that this hasn't been the start to the season the Wolverines envisioned heading into a home contest against San Diego State on Saturday.

After being a No. 1 seed and making a run to the Elite Eight in the NCAA Tournament last year, Michigan entered this season with high expectations and had a preseason ranking of No. 6.

But following a 4-3 start, including a lopsided 72-51 loss at North Carolina on Wednesday, Michigan is likely going to drop out of the rankings next week.

However, Michigan head coach Juwan Howard isn't too concerned as of yet.

"It's early," Howard said. "We haven't even gotten to the Big Ten season yet. I think this is going to make us a better team. I trust it will. We have a very competitive schedule. I love our schedule and the type of teams we are playing. Really good teams. We're going to get better from this. I trust we will. I know our guys in that locker room, including the staff, have trust built in that we will get better."

Michigan has struggled to adjust to life without four veterans from last year's team, NBA lottery pick Franz Wagner and three players on NBA G League rosters in Isaiah Livers, Chaundee Brown and Mike Smith.

After being a revelation last year as a freshman, center Hunter Dickinson is now the focal point of a younger team, rather than a complementary piece to a veteran squad like he was last year.

A highly touted six-member freshman class, led by potential NBA lottery pick Caleb Houstan, is still getting acclimated to college basketball.

DeVante' Jones, a transfer from Coastal Carolina who was the Sun Belt Player of the Year last year, is also trying to get adjusted.

Next up for the Wolverines in San Diego State, which comes in at 5-2 following a 72-47 home win over Long Beach State on Tuesday.

The Aztecs are led in scoring by Matt Bradley (13.0 ppg.) and Trey Pulliam (10.9 ppg.), but they will have to play for the near future without third-leading scorer Lamont Butler, who suffered a broken left wrist against Long Beach State.

San Diego State doesn't have the offensive firepower it has had in past years, but has played good defense so far this season, limiting opponents to 57.9 points per game.

Aztecs head coach Brian Dutcher will be going into familiar territory, considering he was an assistant at Michigan when Howard was a player there in the early '90s.

"I think this definitely boosts our confidence," Dutcher said. "Going into a situation like that, and an environment like Michigan, you want to feel good about yourself. So hopefully all the guys feel good about the win and can use this as momentum to help get the win in Ann Arbor. When our confidence is there, I think we've got a chance to be a really good team. So hopefully we can just stay confident."

--Field Level Media

Updated December 3, 2021