Howard was an easy choice for the award after leading Michigan to a surprising Big Ten regular season championship. His team went 19-3 this year while playing in one of the toughest versions of the Big Ten in recent memory.
This offseason, Howard had to overcome the loss of the two winningest players in program history: Zavier Simpson and Jon Teske.
With the most glaring need being at point guard, Howard went out and landed Columbia transfer Mike Smith, who was a volume scorer in the Ivy League. Smith joined the Wolverines, accepted a role as a distributor and led the Big Ten in assists.
From afterthought to champion: Despite dominance, Michigan’s Big Ten title is an underdog story
Another transfer, Chaundee Brown, joined Howard after being a three-year starter at Wake Forest. Brown accepted a role off the bench and became one of the league’s toughest defenders. He also provided an offensive spark at times from the beyond the three-point line.
Howard lost a commitment from five-star forward Isaiah Todd and missed out on five-star guard Josh Christopher, but he brought in one of the most productive freshmen in the nation to replace Teske.
Dickinson flourished under Howard this season, averaging 14.3 points, 7.7 rebounds and 1.4 blocks per game while playing strong interior defense.
The additions of Smith, Brown and Dickinson, as well as the improvement from returning contributors Franz Wagner, Isaiah Livers and Eli Brooks, buoyed Michigan to the top of the conference.
Howard also helped Michigan navigate through a 23-day layoff that was handed down by the state health department. Despite having no COVID-19 cases, the basketball team was shut down for two weeks without any team practices or workouts.
But Howard was up to the challenge, and Michigan returned to the court with ranked wins over Wisconsin and Ohio State.
Michigan will take the court next in the quarterfinals of the Big Ten Tournament on Friday. While they wait to see whether Michigan State or Maryland will be their opponent, the Wolverines anxiously await news on Brooks, who injured his ankle in the season-ending loss at MSU.
Michigan will be a No. 1 seed in the NCAA Tournament, but without Brooks, its chances of reaching the Final Four and competing for a national title are slim.