Plenty of time has been spent explaining why Michigan hasn’t been as good as anyone expected this season. The Wolverines lost a lot of good players, don’t have enough shooting, play two bigs, and the newcomers aren’t as good as advertised. You are undoubtedly familiar with the list by now.
Michigan’s season hasn’t gone how anyone planned. The Wolverines are 9-7 in the middle of January and have work to do to play their way into the NCAA Tournament. They might be the best seven-loss team in the country, but they are still a seven-loss team.
Despite all of that frustration, last week was a reminder that the Wolverines still have the player at the center of those expectations. Michigan was a preseason top-10 team because Hunter Dickinson was a Preseason All-American.
For the first month of the season, he looked anything but.
Recovering from a slow start
Dickinson wasn’t necessarily bad early in the season, but he wasn’t close to the dominant player that everyone expected.
He got played off the floor in high-profile matchups against Arizona and North Carolina, accumulating 15 points and 12 rebounds total, while the starting bigs opposite him combined for 33 points and 21 boards. Michigan lost those games by an average margin of 19.5 points.
If there was a low point for Dickinson individually, it was that North Carolina game. He played poorly and committed his third and fourth foul on the same possession 90 seconds into the second half. He scored 4 points, committed four fouls, and turned it over three times in 18 minutes.
Frustration had boiled over and something had to change. Dickinson, a preseason All-American, was averaging 13 points per game and Michigan was 4-3.
It’s hard to say what changed after that loss in Chapel Hill, but the sophomore big man hasn’t been the same player since. He’s taking more shots, making more of them, taking and making threes, distributing the ball more effectively and turning it over less often.
He’s averaging 19.6 points and 9.4 rebounds per game since and is playing productive basketball within the flow of the offense. He’s up to 12 2-point attempts per game compared to 8.7 in that early seven-game stretch. His body language is better and his defense has improved.
Dickinson’s numbers through the first seven games of the season were pedestrian. His production since is on an All-American level and it’s no coincidence that his best performances have been Michigan’s best performances.
Here’s a closer look at the improvements that have fueled his resurgence.