2022-23 Season

Four thoughts on Michigan hoops after a deflating week

Michigan sputtered to a pair of narrow losses over the last week, taking most of the momentum out of its NCAA Tournament hopes. The Wolverines still have five games to play, including a home rivalry tilt with Michigan State on Saturday night, but are clearly running out of time to build momentum.

Here are four thoughts on recent Wolverine developments including Kobe Bufkin’s growth, Jett Howard’s offensive struggles, the power forward position and a gap in the ball screen offense.

Jett Howard’s offensive regression

Jett Howard started the season on a torrid stretch. He looked like an NBA Draft lottery talent with his shot-making and scoring efficiency. He was unstoppable offensively throughout most of non-conference play, racking up a 121 offensive rating on 21.3% usage.

Since the calendar rolled into Big Ten play, life has become much more difficult for the freshman wing. Teams have adjusted to his tendencies and have taken away his ability to score at the rim, a facet of his game that looked like an advantage in November and December.

Howard is still making threes — 37.3% in league play, 38.4% in non-conference play — but his offensive rating has dipped to 105.7 on 23.5% usage in Big Ten games. An offensive rating over 120 would put Howard among the top five or six offensive weapons in the league. His offensive rating in league play is good for 20th in the conference among 41 qualified players with similar usage.

Essentially, the difference between all-conference and league-average production offensively.

Howard’s inability to score inside the arc has been his undoing against better opponents. He was 17-of-27 on shots around the rim in non-league play compared to 9-of-29 since Big Ten play began, per Synergy. His nine made field goals at the rim are good for 6th on Michigan’s roster, and only Dug McDaniel has shot a lower percentage at the rim in Big Ten games.

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