Although Darius Morris left for the NBA following last season, Michigan hasn't lost a step with freshman Trey Burke taking over at point guard.
Northwestern is in a similar position with freshman Dave Sobolewski replacing one of the program's best floor leaders.
Burke and the No. 13 Wolverines go for their 12th consecutive home win Wednesday night against the well-rested Wildcats, who are looking to snap a nine-game road skid against ranked opponents.
After leading the Big Ten in assists as a sophomore last season, Morris left the Wolverines and was drafted in the second round by the Los Angeles Lakers. That was a potentially huge loss for the program, but the addition of Burke, the 2011 Mr. Basketball in Ohio, has helped Michigan (13-3, 3-1) get off to its best start since 2008-09.
Burke is averaging 13.8 points and his 5.0 assists per game are third most in the league. He scored 14 points in a 59-41 victory over then-No. 18 Wisconsin on Sunday, but his biggest contribution may have been helping the Wolverines limit point guard Jordan Taylor to 12 points and 5-of-15 shooting.
Michigan had one of its best defensive efforts of the season, holding Wisconsin to a season-worst 31.4 percent from the field.
"It's atypical for a young man to come in and feel so comfortable running his team, playing with confidence and poise," coach John Beilein said of Burke. "... His teammates really like him. (Senior guard Zack) Novak has told me several times 'I love playing with Trey Burke.' That helps a great deal when you're No. 1 leader loves his point guard. He's been accepted very well."
Northwestern coach Bill Carmody knows his team will have its hands full with Burke as it takes the court for the first time since a 57-56 home loss to Illinois on Jan. 4.
"(The Wolverines) shoot the ball well - it's a similar team to last year, except now they have the freshman in there, Burke, who is just playing really well," Carmody said. "We have our work cut out for us."
Michigan has won its 10 games in Ann Arbor this season by an average of 15.2 points. It will be facing a Northwestern team that hasn't beaten a Top 25 opponent on the road since a 64-61 victory over then-No. 19 Purdue on March 4, 2009.
Sobolewski has totaled 13 points and shot 2 of 11 as the Wildcats have lost their three games against ranked opponents by an average of 23.0 points. He did record 17 assists with just two turnovers in those contests, however.
Sobolewski, who replaced Northwestern's all-time assist leader Michael Thompson, is averaging 3.8 assists and is among the nation's leaders in assist-to-turnover ratio at 4.07.
"He just plays with a great deal of poise, and there's a calmness about his game which I like," Carmody said.
John Shurna, the Big Ten scoring leader with 18.7 points per game, will try to deliver a more complete effort after scoring just three of his 20 points after halftime Jan. 4.
Coming off the bench for the second and final time last season after suffering a concussion two weeks earlier, Shurna had four points in a 75-66 loss in Ann Arbor on Feb. 9. Michigan had lost three straight to Northwestern before Jordan Morgan paced the Wolverines with a career-high 27 points.
Tim Hardaway Jr., who leads the Wolverines with 15.9 points per game, recorded his first career double-double with 17 and 10 rebounds in that contest. Hardaway posted the same totals Sunday.