this week in unintentionally grim-sounding recruiting headlines
This was going to be a comment under the article concerning Beilein's recruiting and Brian's response, but it went too long and I figured it might as well be a diary entry.
While I agree that this David fellow sounds pretty whiny, I do think he points out the one potential failing of Beilein - his system was designed to compensate for the lack of the "big time" star. The heavy reliance on three pointers that is a hallmark of his offense is designed to compensate for the lack of a post threat and/or a dynamic finisher around the basket. Similarly, the 1-3-1 was designed to create turnovers as a way to compensate for little interior defense from a dominant inside presence. And when Beilein was coaching at Canisius, Richmond, and WVU, that focus made sense, as he wasn't going to be able to nab the type of dynamic players teams like UNC, Duke, UConn, and MSU has that can take over a game. Instead, he recruited guys who could play in his system and flourish, trotting out a team that, when playing well, could beat a more talented collection of players.
Unfortunately, and I think this might have been a small component of David's rant, this type of system has a finite level of potential success - something I'll refer to as the Mid-Major Ceiling (MMC). Look at teams like Gonzaga (though their recruiting has gotten better over the years), Xavier, Creighton, and throw WVU into that mix (though they come from a major conference, they would never have succeeded in the Big East simply trying to out-recruit other teams). While they all are/were consistent NCAA teams, none ever made it past the Elite 8 (except George Mason, which was the flukiest of fluky runs), and even getting past the Sweet 16 was a crapshoot. The reason for this, at least in my opinion, was due to the fact that they inevitably ran into a team whose talent was great enough to expose the deficiencies each of those systems was designed to hide. In most instances, what exposed this MMC was a team that possessed a "superstar" or, at the very least, a combination of near-stars that could simply impose his/their will upon the game; basically, the talent beat the system.
Now, as a fan of basketball purity I don't see a major problem with this. I loved when Princeton beat UCLA, not because it was a huge upset, but because it showed that a good team could beat a collection of great players. Similarly, the Pistons in 2004 were great because they played a system that stymied the more talented Lakers. And maybe years ago systems won championships, when you didn't need to have the best players because your 1-5 played better together than anyone else's 1-5. But as much as I hate to say it, basketball has become far more about the dominant player(s) than the system.
Look at this year's NCAA championship - MSU has a huge amount of talent, but UNC was clear and away the most talented team in college basketball all season. Leading up to the final, you kept hearing that MSU could win if they played their "game", the Izzo system of tough defense, offensive rebounding, and opportunistic scoring with guys like Lucas and Morgan attacking the basketball with Suton firing from outside. UNC, by comparison, seemed to run a more fluid, less-defined system, where guys like Lawson, Hansbrough, and Ellington simply took over parts of a game with their superior talent. Well, UNC steamrolled MSU, like they did every other team in the tournament, and they did it by fielding a more talented lineup than anyone else.
And this wasn't a one-time shot - looking at recent NCAA finals participants, most of them sent numerous players to the pros and generally recruited the best talent every year. There's a reason that Duke, UNC, MSU, UConn, Kansas, UCLA, and Memphis (under Cal) are NC contenders every year, and it's not because they run a distinctive style - they trot out All-Americans and future pros and simply out-talent the opposition on most nights. And UM has been on the receiving end of this out-talenting firsthand - see Griffin taking over the game against UM in the second round this year. UM and OU (sans Griffin) were similar teams in terms of talent, and UM's system was better that OU's. But Griffin's talent exposed the chief deficiency of this team (no inside talent/defense), and as a result UM was sent home.
In fact, a good barometer of this phenomena is the Duke-UNC rivalry. Duke out-recruited UNC earlier this decade, and took command of the rivalry for years. Then, once Doherty left and Williams started to out-recruit Duke for key talent, the pendulum swung over and UNC has consistently beaten Duke the past 3-4 years. Now, I don't think that the programs drastically changed their offenses and defenses over those stretches; they simply out-talented each other during their up periods.
So what does this mean for Beilein and recruiting? In my opinion, you need stars in today's NCAA to break the MMC and compete for championships, both in conference and nationally. The concern I have, and I do think some others share, is that UM isn't WVU, Richmond, Gonzaga, Xavier, etc. - the school's name alone gives its coach a chance to recruit kids that would never consider those other program mentioned. UM should be able to recruit top-100 kids on a consistent basis (Amaker showed it was possible even while the team was hopelessly flailing). That said, you need a coach who is willing to do that, to go after some kids who might bolt after 1-2 years and who might not be the best fit for your system.
Listen, I don't want UM to go to the way of Memphis or OSU, with one-and-done super-talents comprising the bulk of the depth chart. At the same time, though, we've seen how far many of these "system" teams can go - the occasional Elite 8, usually at least 1 win in the NCAA tournament but rarely a threat to compete for the NC. And maybe I'm overreacting, and maybe this shows my arrogance, but I think UM can be better than that. This "hey, 9-3 is fine with me" mindset was what permeated the last few years of Carr's tenure (save 2006), and those years were tough to handle as peers (OU, OSU, USC, LSU, UF) rose to greater prominence. That's why Brian's claim that "Michigan will build up a program over Beilein's career and then be in a position to swing for the fences afterwards" troubles me so much. I don't want to leave such a transition to chance, to nabbing that hot coach with the ability to recruit nationally to push this team into the NC conversation. UM can and should be able to enter this conversation NOW, but it is going to take a concerted effort by Beilein and his staff to take some chances and build a team that not only runs his system to a T, but has that player/players who can take over a game or make a big shot when the system breaks down.
Ultimately, I think that Beilein is a great coach and I fully expect him to recruit great players for this program. I think UM will one day soon shatter the MMC and contend nationally, and I will be cheer on the program until my voice goes hoarse. Already he has recruited better players than he usually had at WVU, and this season's success should only help in these efforts. But until we see a consistent uptick in recruiting, these concerns shouldn't be shouted down as alarmist either.
As a professional, I know Iris is unrivaled in her ability to figure out what is most important and deploy the perfect approach to those issues. Her name is certainly beautiful and unique, but I ask for your vote because she's a genuinely beautiful person.
Yesterday, when sitting through a boring lecture on managerial accounting, I stumbled across an ESPN article titled, "Cheering for MSU from Ann Arbor", discussing how fans at Local Ann Arbor bars were being filled with people cheering for Sparty... I read it and I instantly threw up in my mouth.
Now I am not a Michigan student, or grad student, alumni nor will I ever be, But I was born and raised on M... Too me Ann Arbor is a sacred place... Look, I understand, the whole automobile crisis, the down economy, and the just natural crappy nature of the state, but after being held down by the shackles of what I reference as "The worst fall of my life" my shit talking to my friends who attend MSU is nominally subdued and I am left hearing irrational Spartan fans continuously telling me how M football is over and how much they loved beating M and will continue to do so for years to come. These are the same friends who expect me to cheer for MSU? I find that quite ironic. What does it matter that the game is played in Detroit? It has no baring on me nor do I think it should on anybody else. I am not a spartan fan I don't root for them against Ohio State I don't root for them ever... I am indifferent, but to actually verbally acknowledge any inkling that I want MSU to win is unacceptable to me. Even on a lighter note I rooted against Sparty for the fact that anytime anything cooler then a cow shitting ignites a riot. I was slightly concerned for my friends safety..What are your thoughts? Am I wrong or justified on my stance... Sorry for any rambling class sucks...
As we are past one of the worst experiences ever for the Michigan football team, and looking forward to a renewed season of hope, albeit warily (freshman QB, lack of experience on Defense, etc.), I thought it would be interesting to get people's takes on an issue that periodically comes up between my friends and I, namely: is there a standard of excellence or achievement that our football program should consistently meet?
Speaking for myself, this has come up in the recent past, not with the new coaching staff (changing the program fairly radically requires patience) but very often in the last few years of the Carr administration, most often after a disappointing loss to a team we "should" have beaten IMO. We used to have debates over what constituted a consistent standard of excellence. Some would say that maintaining a clean program, adhering to our standards, graduating players, and maintaining a winning program (e.g. 8 wins and above) meets that standard. Others would say that with our resources, recruiting, facilities, and tradition, that only a consistent BCS presence---not necessarily national title games, but being consistently in the BCS mix, which typically identifies the top 8-10 teams on the country, is the true standard. Lastly, others might say that with the changing landscape of college football, the diffusion of talent more evenly distributed throughout the country, etc., that expectations are a fool's game, and that we should be grateful to compete for Big Ten titles periodically, and accept that things are so different from the Bo era, and that that time will not return again.
You know the drill: Michigan should "never" lose to Toledo, App. State, blah blah. "We are Michigan" and so on. For me, that sentiment is mistaken given the changes in the landscape mentioned above. My greatest frustrations in the past were not necessarily those losses, but rather the one game seemingly every/most years of Carr that we had in the bag but blew (you can all name the particular game). The year's of Capital One or Outback Bowls, where we thought we had the talent to go to the BCS, but didn't.
So, what do you think? Is there a standard that the program should meet? For purposes of the argument I'll define "meeting" as 4 out of every 5 years--there will always be an outlier year, where injuries and other things contribute to not meeting the standard--if there is one.
I will start by saying where I come out on the issue. I am in the camp that says we have advantages that should add up to consistent excellence on the field. My definition of excellence is simple: consistent Top Ten finishes in end of year polls. No looking for the title game, or even necessarily the BCS --though I think we should be in that mix consistently-- but rather after all the games are played, M is considered a top ten team that season.
So, your thoughts: unrealistic? About right? Don't even have the conversation because it appeals to yahoo sentiments that say we should never lose a game?
Remember that this definition allows for a weird year that does not meet this. I'm also, for the purposes of the argument, exempting last year and this one due to RR and the great amount of change the program is in.
I'm very interested in the discussion if you have time. Let's hear it..
Is anyone else a little miffed that the vents on the revolution helmets have moved the lateral stripes, well, more lateral, so the effect is that some of the helmets look like blue basketballs with yellow stripes? Really, would it be that hard to paint the stripe so it runs over the airholes, so the previous, closer to parallel appearance of the three stripes would be retained?
Maybe I'm an old fogie traditionalist, but even Bo didn't @%$# with the helmets!
Continuing with uniform stuff, I'm OK with the new road uniforms, although I wish the flank striping was staighter like the piping on the ND road jerseys. Also, I think we need to go at least one more year without anyone wearing AC's number. I like the single digit quarterback numbers, and I think it would be cool to have the wide outs wear the teen numbers (although no Michigan player could wear '11' like Larry Fitzgerald, for obvious reasons).
Finally, I doubt this would go over with the current crowd, but I'd like to go back to my freshman year (1978) and take the names off the back - at least at home. As Bo might say, "There's no 'I' (or 'ID') in team!"
Forgive me if for some this topic is either premature, or already worn out. For me, I like thinking about how we'll put the chess pieces on the board. Here is my expectation, formatted in terms of "fixed" positions that are likely to remain constant and "flex" positions that may or may not be on the field play-to-play based on formation or scheme.
7 fixed positions:
QB: 1. Forcier/Robinson (70/30), 2. Sheridan, 3. Feagin, Apocalypse
RB: 1. Minor, 2a. Brown/Shaw/V. Smith, 2b. Grady/Cox
Remaining 4 some combination of:
WR1: 1. Matthews/Hemingway, 2. Savoy/Rogers
WR2: 1. Stonum, 2. Stokes, 3. Rogers/Roundtree
Slot (1 to 2): 1a. Odoms, 1b. T. Robinson, 3. Gallon/Stokes
FB: 1. Moundros
TE: 1. Koger, 2. Webb
DE2: Van Bergen
SS: B. Smith
FS: M. Williams
Remaining 2 some combination of:
LB/S: S. Brown
Nickel: Woolfolk/J. Turner
**Another way of looking at D; likely front seven combinations:
3-4 -- [Graham, Martin, Van Bergen] + [Mouton, Ezeh, Fitzgerald/Demens, S. Brown]
4-3 -- [Graham, Martin, Campbell/Patterson/Segasse, Ven Bergen] + [Mouton, Ezeh, Fitz/Demens/Brown]
Just for kicks, if we took the field tomorrow--
First play offense:
LT - RT: Ortmann, Schilling, Molk, Moosman, Dorrestein
First play defense:
DE: Van Bergen
S/LB: S. Brown
SS: B. Smith
FS: M. Williams