Hello and Happy Aloha Friday.
This offseason is still in its infancy, we’ve seen the usual terrible threads rear their ugly head, and our countdown is still in offensive linemen territory.
This board has had significant debates within countless threads regarding John Beilein and the state of the Michigan Men’s Basketball program. There seems to be many users perched at both extremes; the sky is falling crowd, where John Beilein can’t do anything right, and needs to be shown the door sooner rather than later; and the crowd that has belief in John Beilein, his straight-arrowed approach, and success to date and potential for even greater success. We’ve seen birthdate as a hypothesis for determining what crowd you fall in to. We’ve seen differing definitions for a successful season, successful tenure, and recruiting hauls. We’ve also seen questions of how successful a “football” school should be when facing off against “basketball” schools.
My postulation is that the college basketball game is more of a “what have you done for me lately” business. High school players that travel the AAU circuit and earn McDonald All-American and Mr. Basketball accolades are on a one-track mission to go to the University which provides them the best opportunity to put their talents on display for one-two years, and then get drafted into the NBA (ideally as a lottery pick). I believe things such as “tradition” and geographic location can be thrown out the window when these high school athletes are deciding on which University they will attend. They only care about winning during their short time at college, and then fulfilling their dream of playing in the NBA. This is not a fault for these athletes; it’s simply the nature of the business. They know that the way out of wherever they came from, or how they financially help out their family, is to make it to the NBA and succeed.
The data I selected for this review is to look at which programs have been successful “lately”. I chose to go back to the 1999-2000 season. I chose 1999 as my starting season because 1) players on those teams are still competing in the NBA, and 2) coaches from 1999 are still coaching. The table below is broken up into three sections. The first section highlights teams that have made it to the National Championship game since 1999. The list of schools I chose to review is made up of teams that have been to a Championship game. This is how many define success; winning championships. The next section highlights wins, losses, NCAAT wins, and the number of 5-star recruits (as reported by 247 sports). I chose this time period to highlight which teams have had the most recent success. I also listed the number of players from each University are currently in the NBA (*this was made up prior to the 2016 NBA Draft). The last section shows wins, losses, bowl wins, and National Championships in football dating back to 2000-2001.
|1999 - Present||Basketball 2013-2014 - Present||Football 2000-2001 - Present|
|Team||NCAAT Championship Game Appearances||NCAAT Championships||Wins||Losses||NCAAT Wins||5* Recruits||NBA Players||Wins||Losses||Bowl Wins||National Champions|
I wanted to see which schools are not only winning in the regular season, but also making multiple runs in the NCAAT. The figure below shows that Wisconsin and Kentucky have had the most success in the NCAAT, while only Villanova and Arizona can claim more regular season wins. MSU is right alongside Duke, UNC, UCONN, and Florida. Michigan is in a cluster than includes Indiana, UCLA, Maryland, and Syracuse. Illinois, Memphis, Ohio State, and Butler are the four teams which have had the least amount of recent success in the NCAAT.
The next graph illustrates 5-star recruits with recent success. The big three of Kentucky, Duke, and Kansas hog most of the 5-stars. Wisconsin, MSU, and Louisville have been successful while bringing in zero 5-stars; Michigan isn’t far behind.
The next graph attempts to highlight how successful a program is at winning and getting their players to the NBA. It should come as no surprise to see Kentucky, Kansas, Duke, and North Carolina lead the way. Arizona, UCLA, and Florida comprise the next group. Michigan is on par with MSU, OSU, UCONN, and Wisconsin.
The final graph attempts to highlight which schools can be defined as a basketball or football school (or both). Quadrant 1 (upper right) schools have had success in both football and basketball. Quadrant 2 (upper left) schools have had more recent success in football. Quadrant 3 (bottom left) schools have had little success in either football or basketball. Quadrant 4 (bottom right) schools have had more recent success in basketball.
Analysis and Conclusion
I firmly believe in John Beilein, his system, his recruiting, and the success he has brought to this program. Beilein has shown time and again that his teams can compete against Kentucky, Kansas, Duke, etc. He has brought multiple NCAAT runs, Big-10 Championships, a NPOY, and success at getting players to the NBA. This presentation of information shows that Michigan isn’t too far behind the elites in college basketball.
My hope for the future is to have a decade of success similar to what Bo Ryan was able to do at Wisconsin. I believe that Beilein is the right coach for the job, and has the players in place to make a deep run this year and next year.
Sports Illustrated has a story up at SI.com about NCAA coaches and which ones are best at building elite offenses. John Beilein is in 9th place overall and third in the Big 10 behind Matta and Crean. He didn't score well in recruiting instant impact players (no surprise) but he made up for that in player development.
SI’s study was limited to coaches who’ve spent at least the past four years in one of the nine biggest conferences (the ACC, American, Atlantic 10, Big East, Big Ten, Big 12, Mountain West, Pac-12 and SEC) or at one of the elite programs in the Missouri Valley or West Coast Conferences. It begins with data from 2006–07 and ends with the 2015–16 regular season, up until the beginning of conference tournaments. It focuses strictly on offense because it’s possible to analyze players on an individual level (not so with defense), and because great offense is critical in the NCAA tournament. Just one national champ in the past 10 years (UConn in 2014) has entered the dance ranked outside the top 20 in adjusted offensive efficiency.
This is the daily reminder to vote for Beilein. We are currently up 48%-38% over Ohio State.
It’s hard to believe, but John Beilein’s now in his ninth season at Michigan. About a week and a half ago, he coached his 300th game for the Maize and Blue. After a coach has been around for a certain amount of time, he essentially becomes a known quantity: his offensive philosophies, defensive strategies, substitution patterns, recruiting priorities, and player development trends are all well-known among Michigan fans, and at this point, there’s little mystery about John Beilein or his methods.
In the wake of two embarrassing blowout losses to hated rivals, there was predictable bellyaching about Beilein’s level of job security – some fans even went as far as to call for his firing (while evidently forgetting the Ellerbe-Amaker purgatory that Beilein pulled Michigan out of in the first place). To be sure, it’s easy for people to harp on Beilein’s perceived blind spots and, to be sure, some of those complaints are valid. The reluctance to play guys in foul trouble has surely cost Michigan games over the years. Empirically, we’ve discovered that he manages to develop average defenses at best, and usually they’re far more mediocre than average. Sometimes it seems as if he struggles to accommodate players who don’t have skill sets tailor-made for his system. Gripes about his recruiting strategy and/or the outcome of his recruiting classes have varying levels of credibility.
Still, it’s important to remember Beilein’s strengths. He was well ahead of his time with his insistence on spacing, shooting, and using a non-traditional four in his signature four-out motion offense. There are several notable examples of his players vastly overachieving relative to what their recruiting rankings would project. He adapted to the unprecedented level of talent on his teams by implementing more pick-and-roll action into his offense – and indeed, the trend of his guards developing their passing ability in those sets can surely be attributed to coaching. He coached the best offense in the country in two separate years. He’s won two Big Ten titles – including an outright title in a year in which #2 finished three games behind Michigan in college basketball’s toughest contest. He was once a few possessions from winning a national title. He was once a few possessions from reaching another Final Four.
All of that is to say: you’re crazy if you legitimately want Michigan to replace John Beilein. The grass isn’t always greener on the other side, and it’s pretty green here already.
* * *
More or less, this has been a pretty frustrating season (and I’m convinced that the hideous shorts play a not-insignificant part in that). With the notable exception of wins over Maryland and Purdue – more on those in a second – Michigan has won as the favorite and lost as the underdog, and more than a few of those losses have been complete annihilations. Spike Albrecht’s senior season died before it could even begin. Caris LeVert missed over half of Big Ten play with an injury (but he’s back! Woo!). The reality has probably been better than the discourse would indicate: Michigan’s sitting in fourth in the Big Ten, should be safely in the NCAA Tournament barring an epic meltdown, and, critically, still has plenty of room to improve – especially if LeVert makes it back to his phenomenal early-season form.
Anyways, back to those wins over Maryland and Purdue. Those two wins are the linchpin of Michigan’s NCAA Tournament resume: without them, Michigan would be in the unenviable position of talented low-major programs that put up a gaudy win-loss record before losing in their conference tournament – without wins over good opponents, those teams typically find themselves in the NIT.
What do Maryland and Purdue have in common? Per KenPom’s “effective height” metric (which adjusts each individual’s height based on how many minutes they play), they are the two tallest high-major teams in the country. A common criticism of John Beilein teams is that they are ill-equipped to deal with teams with size: juxtaposed against the construct of the big, burly, physical Big Ten, Beilein’s teams – which prize skill and shooting – often match up poorly, in theory.
[After the JUMP, small-ball defeats bully-ball]
Part 1: Introduction
In the aftermath of two consecutive, embarassing losses at home and a season that has been satisfactory at best (and by satisfactory, I mean, that outside of a win against Maryland, Michigan has handled the teams they should beat and lost to the teams they should lose to), there has been an ongoing debate on whether John Beilein should be on the hot seat or even fired. This is an objective look at John Beilein's success in the context of Michigan basketball history and Beilein's modern contemporaries.
Part 2: Michigan's Place in the Pecking Order
A week or so ago there was a debate about "blue bloods" as it pertained to college football programs. The consensus was that some programs (Michigan among them) have an inherent advantage and sustained legacy of success. The program draws the best coaches and the best players. Jim Harbaugh isn't leaving the NFL to go coach Purdue. John Calipari isn't leaving Memphis for Auburn. I used a fairly simple system to rank every program in a Power 5 + AAC + Big East conference. A NCAA Tournament appearance is worth 1 point. A Final Four is worth 5 points. A National Championship is worth 10 points.
In the interest of time and space I won't list every level and program. The system came up with 7 "Blue Bloods". UCLA, Kentucky, North Carolina, Duke, Indiana, Louisville, and Kansas. On the second level, there were 12 programs. They are:
Ohio State, Michigan State, Connecticut, Arizona, Cincinnati, Oklahoma State, Syracuse, Arkansas, Michigan, Villanova, Georgetown, and Florida.
These are the programs that historically have matched Michigan's success. You could argue against Oklahoma State's inclusion (made it based on two titles in the 1940s) or that State or UConn deserves to be bumped up a level. So, how is John Beilein doing compared to the coaches of these 11 programs (Ohio State and Michigan State will be saved for the B1G section)? Let's take a look:
|John Thompson III||Georgetown||11+||.675||3||8||1||0|
Throw out Boeheim. It's impossible to compare Beilein to a guy who has been at Syracuse for 40 years. Beilein's resume at this point is most comparable to Mick Cronin at Cincinnati which makes sense. Cronin relies on fielding a strong defense that creates rock fights, but his teams routinely hae trouble scoring. Cincinnati was in a strong Big East minus the last 2+ years so it's not like the American offered an easy way into the tournament. Every other coach outside of Mike Anderson (who has a higher winning %) has been more successful.
Part 3: Beilein's Place in Michigan History
Okay, so Beilein hasn't been as successful as the coaches of other programs on Michigan's level, but he turned what had been a pretty big disaster and resurrected it. How does Beilein compare to the other coaches in Michigan's long history? Because the NCAA Tournament didn't expand until 1985, I gave coaches a tournament berth if their team had a winning % over .667 (a 20-10 record today).
|Bill Freider||9||.680||2||5 (+1)||0||0|
|Johnny Orr||12||.649||0||4 (+1)||1||0|
|Dave Strack||8||.559||3||3 (+1)||2||0|
|Bill Perigo||8||.438||0||0 (+1)||0||0|
|Ernie McCoy||4||.460||0||0 (+1)||0||0|
This looks a little better for Beilein. He's already led Michigan to the 3rd most NCAA Tournaments under one coach (counting an extra one for Freider). He brought respectability back to Michigan basketball. His % of NCAA Tournaments to seasons is better than everybody but Fisher. Is he the 2nd best coach in Michigan history? I think he is.
Part 4: Beilein vs B1G Contemporaries
Last part of the analysis is how is Beilein doing compared to the other coaches who have been in the B1G while Beilein has been at Michigan.
|Tom Izzo||Michigan St.||20+||.717||7||18||7||1|
|Thad Matta||Ohio St.||11+||..751||5||9||2||0|
|Ed DeChellis||Penn St.||8||.452||0||1||0||0|
|Pat Chambers||Penn St.||4+||.439||0||0||0||0|
Wow, that's a lot of data and one joke, so let's try to break it down. Matta, Ryan, and Izzo have been the gold standard for the past decade plus in the B1G. Beilein's closest comparison is probably Bruce Weber. You know who got fired after missing the tournament 3 times in 5 years? Bruce Weber. Still, during Beilein's tenure Michigan has been the 4th best program in the conference. That's basically in line with history.
Part 5: So, Should He Be Fired?
No. We don't know what the hell is going to happen the rest of the year. Michigan needs to take care of business against Minnesota and Northwestern, go 1-2 in their road games against Ohio St., Wisky and Maryland, and split their homes games against Iowa and Purdue. That'll give them 2 solid wins and no bad losses at 21-10 and a winning record in the B1G which should put them in the tournament. If that happens, Beilein is safe. If they make a run to the Elite 8 or Sweet 16, then it's even more of a no brainer. However, if Michigan collapses and loses 5 of their last 7 and miss the tournament, he goes into next year on the hot seat. If they miss the tournament against next year, that puts him well below the level set by let's say Matt Painter at Purdue, traditionally a worse program than Michigan's.
Looks like JB's slipped to 40%, but I'm guessing that even with zero additional votes, he'll still win this round.
However, I've heard it takes 17 days to make or break a habit, so hopefully by the time he gets to the Final Four, we can help him win decisively.