MBB: Revising Expectations After Caleb Houstan and Moussa Diabate Enter the Draft
Expect at least one more incoming transfer. Meanwhile, what can Terrance Williams II and Kobe Bufkin produce in bigger roles?
The NBA Draft early entry deadline proved unkind to Michigan, as both Moussa Diabate and Caleb Houstan decided to leave the college game behind.
Their departures leave Juwan Howard with two available scholarships. The coaching staff hasn’t hidden their desire to add transfers, especially those with a particular trait:
“If you can shoot it, and you’re out there, you can expect that we’ll be knocking on your door,” [assistant coach Phil] Martelli said.
Let’s assess where the program stands right now and what it may look like when the transfer carousel stops spinning.
The Current Roster: Pressure’s On Bufkin and Williams
Here’s my projection of what the depth chart would look like if Michigan went into the season with their current roster:
While the starting five has the potential to be an upper-tier group in the Big Ten, the depth is untested — the only returners on the bench are redshirt freshman Isaiah Barnes and former walk-on Jace Howard. That’s scary when there’s only one returning starter, even one as good as Hunter Dickinson, and either a transfer (Jaelin Llewellyn) or a freshman (Dug McDaniel) at point guard.
Blue chip freshman wing Jett Howard would have to be an instant hit and touted freshman big man Tarris Reed a viable second-string center. At least a couple players would be required to contribute at multiple positions, too. The margins are thin.
Among returning players, junior forward Terrance Williams II and sophomore guard Kobe Bufkin are under the greatest pressure to have breakout seasons.
To get a fair read on how much the losses of Houstan and Diabate hurt and how ready Williams and Bufkin are to help replace their production, I used the lineup data on Pivot Analysis to situate Dickinson as the great equalizer — I only looked at possessions when he was on the court against quality competition (top-100 KenPom opponents).
Using only those possessions, I compiled the On/Off splits for Houstan, Diabate, Williams, and Bufkin. Here are the numbers, with takeaways to follow:
As long as Dickinson was in the lineup, Michigan was equally good or thereabouts regardless of whether Houstan or Diabate were playing. The team got worse on offense and better on defense when Houstan or Diabate checked out.
Michigan was eight points per 100 possessions worse with Williams on the floor. Upon closer examination, however, that number requires some context that I’ll cover later in this section.
Lineups with Bufkin had a +4.1 overall efficiency margin and improved by 6.2 points per 100 possessions on defense.
The case for Bufkin continues with his recruiting profile; he was the composite #46 overall recruit in the 2021 class. While he remained on the fringe of the rotation for most of his freshman year, he flashed impressive finishing ability and the potential to be a high-level perimeter defender.
Although Bufkin only hit 8-of-36 three-point attempts, his shooting form looked fine, and he had the confidence to make a game-sealing triple in the second Ohio State matchup. Shooting 51% on twos and 77% from the line as a wiry 6’4 freshman are good signs for his development as a scorer.
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