Dug McDaniel appears to be making “The Leap” as a sophomore. As he bursts into stardom, Michigan basketball is already proving doubters wrong.

Michigan was picked to finish 10th in the Big Ten media poll this season, and the team did not earn a single preseason all-conference selection. After all, the Wolverines lost their leading scorer (Hunter Dickinson) from a team that didn’t make the NCAA Tournament, and they were set to be led by an undersized sophomore point guard. Many expected a rebuilding year.

However, that point guard — Dug McDaniel — has quickly clarified that that won’t be the case. The 5-11 dynamo has lit the country on fire through Michigan’s first three games, averaging 21.3 points and 6.3 assists. The Wolverines are 3-0 and boast wins over two conference champions from last season, UNC Asheville and Youngstown State. They also handed Rick Pitino his first loss at St. John’s.

But remember: McDaniel did not receive a single vote for an all-conference team in the preseason. That surely wouldn’t be the case if you asked the media to re-vote after the first week. McDaniel is playing fearlessly, attacking the rim with a cartoonishly quick burst and dishing at will to open teammates.

Markquis Nowell similarly took the nation by storm with his play for Kansas State last year. Now, Dug McDaniel is making an early case to be this season’s dynamic breakout guard.


Michigan is centered around McDaniel

Michigan ranks 17th in the country in adjusted offensive efficiency, per KenPom, which factors in some preseason expectations. Meanwhile, Bart Torvik’s T-Rank data can be filtered based only on games that have been played; by that measure, the Wolverines boast the seventh-best offense in the country. McDaniel is the centerpiece behind their efficiency, serving as the conductor of a well-spaced unit and carving up defenses off the bounce.

McDaniel is making Michigan special so far this season, but it also works in reverse. Michigan has built its system around its young point guard by providing ample shooting and space around him. In particular, frontcourt pieces Olivier Nkamhoua, Terrance Williams, and Will Tschetter are all viable threats from deep. They are shooting a combined 18-for-31 (58.1 percent) from three, and Nimari Burnett has also been excellent.

Look at the sheer spacing that Michigan’s offense features consistently: 

McDaniel is a blazing speedster with tremendous shiftiness and creativity off the bounce. Giving a player of his skill set and caliber this much space leads to high-efficiency offense. Watch how McDaniel manufactures out of that space:

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