it's a major award
"What is a weed? A plant whose virtues have not yet been discovered." — Ralph Waldo Emerson
John Beilein tends his garden. Yet another year of turnover means another year of intense cultivation.
He once had a Shooter, which bloomed into a stunning Not Just A Shooter™. His Tantalizing Athlete blossomed into an Emphatic Finisher. The Quiet Generic Big Man, through years of care, sprouted into an Imposing Leader of Men and Taker of No Shit. Only the Magnus Catulus failed to effloresce into something entirely different; even the greatest gardener can't control the weather.
Michigan enters the 2014-15 season in a familiar position, loaded with talent but forced to reload. Gone to the NBA are Nik Stauskas, Glenn Robinson III, and Mitch McGary; Jordan Morgan's brought his salty style of basketball to Italy; Jon Horford's on-court meditation sessions will now take place in Gainesville.
The Wolverines roster isn't barren, of course. The string bean that was Caris LeVert is now a guru-approved NBA lottery prospect, and he's much less stringy, too. Derrick Walton and Zak Irvin promise growth in their second years on campus. Spike Albrecht's steady hand will once again be available off the bench. A bevy of young big men of all shapes and sizes hope to fill the void left by the trio of departing centers.
I cannot and will not forget that the Bench Mob—led by the exuberant Andrew Dakich—returns in force, which brings me to the other Emerson quote I considered placing atop this post.
Nothing great was ever achieved without enthusiasm.
John Beilein may run a sophisticated offense that takes time and great discipline to master, but the aura around his program has always been one of a loose, joyful group. It's infectious. It's changed the feeling of going to the Crisler Center as much as the exquisite renovations. Hell, it's carrying fans through football season, even as uncertainty again looms over the basketball team.
I don't know if Ricky Doyle, Mark Donnal, Max Bielfeldt, and DJ Wilson are a suitable set of big men to make another title run in what of late has been the nation's best basketball conference. I don't know if the loss of Stauskas will leave Michigan one shot-creator short of having another elite offense. I don't know if Kam Chatman can step into GRIII's spot and replace his production. I don't know if Derrick Walton will take a Burkeian sophomore leap. I don't know if Zak Irvin is really more than Just A Shooter. I don't know if last year's regression on defense can be reversed with such a young rotation.
I'm comfortable with not knowing, however, because this isn't the first time. There's plenty I do know, as well. I know that Michigan posted the best adjusted offensive efficiency in the history of KenPom last season, when they had to replace Trey Burke and Tim Hardaway Jr.
I know that the last time the Wolverines weren't considered a preseason top-three Big Ten team, they went 13-5 to grab a share of the conference crown. This season, with Wisconsin the heavy favorites over a jumble of teams with serious question marks, it appears Michigan will be in the same position.
I know that John Beilein is coaching this team, and that means I have no need to worry.
I know, above all, that basketball season will be fun. This isn't the highest bar to set, but as we've learned all too well from football, it's far from the lowest.
There are 27 days until Michigan opens the season with an exhibition against Wayne State. In that span, I'll be writing a lot of preview content, and much of it will focus on the questions this team must answer to live up to the standard that Beilein has created in Ann Arbor.
There's no question about this, however: it's time to start getting excited, because Beilein's green thumb will once again dig up those virtues most other coaches would never discover.
While Michigan didn't quite end up getting their entire starting five from the 2013 national title game into the first round, last night's NBA Draft proved a major success for the program. Here's an overview of what went down last night; next week, I'll take a closer look at how each U-M draftee fits in with his new team.
Nik Stauskas, #8 Overall, Sacramento Kings
Nik Stauskas went off the board at #8 to Sacramento, becoming the highest Wolverine selection since Dallas picked Robert Traylor (RIP) sixth in 1998 before trading him to Milwaukee. Stauskas, resplendent in a suit that probably cost more than my car, immediately celebrated with a perfectly executed three-goggle handshake with his dad. (His subsequent handshake with John Beilein wasn't quite so flawless.)
Afterward, Stauskas was asked about Michigan by someone who clearly never went to Michigan, because Zingerman's is way too expensive for students and the Art Fair takes place when almost nobody is on campus. He handled it well:
Q. Nik, Michigan is a very good school academically, great campus like Zingerman's, the art festival in Ann Arbor. Was it an easy decision? There must be a tough decision to say, I want to leave early, because it is a great school. Was there part of you that said, I should get my degree here and then go to the NBA?
NIK STAUSKAS: I definitely thought about it, but the biggest thing for me after this season was I felt like I was ready. I thought I had improved enough throughout the year, and I had made a lot of strides in my game and made the necessary improvements to make that jump to the next level.
Like I said, this has been a dream of mine my entire life. The fact that I had the opportunity to do it now, I feel like this is the right time. I understand that I could always go back and get my education after, which I fully plan on doing.
It's great to hear that Stauskas plans to finish earning his degree down the road. And yes, Nik, you were ready.
In the end, it turned out Stauskas separated himself quite a bit from the two players believed to be his biggest competition as shooting guards projected to go in the mid-to-late lottery. Kentucky's James Young went to the Celtics at #17, while MSU's Gary Harris surprisingly plunged all the way to #19—he'll end up in Denver after a draft-day trade with Chicago.
Mitch McGary, #21 Overall, Oklahoma City Thunder
One of the most entertaining aspects of draft night is watching Yahoo's Adrian Wojnarowski announce every pick on Twitter well before the actual picks are announced, sometimes getting so far as three picks ahead of the telecast. Rarely does anyone scoop Wojo; when they do, sometimes it's because they're wrong.
So when John Beilein tweeted this out minutes before Oklahoma City selected Mitch McGary at #21 overall, it'd prove to be the second-greatest thing Beilein did last night (TEASER):
— John Beilein (@JohnBeilein) June 27, 2014
John Beilein is better at your job than you are. There's no shame in this. Just accept it.
Meanwhile, MLive's Brendan Quinn passes along this fantastic quote from OKC GM Sam Presti, generally regarded as one of the best in the business:
"The last thing that is really, really impressive to us, and the reason that we value him even more, is that he's an incredible teammate -- just an incredible teammate," Presti said. "That was on display during the season when he missed a significant amount of time.
"I felt like I was scouting him on the bench while he wasn't playing. The way that he engaged with his teammates, his support was unwavering, his enthusiasm was unwavering. Combine that with his skill-set and and his intangibles, and that's a Thunder player."
If the Thunder don't use a future pick on Andrew Dakich, I'll be sorely disappointed.
Glenn Robinson III, #40 Overall, Minnesota Timberwolves
Wojo cruelly tweeted that Oklahoma City was considering GRIII with their second pick of the first round, which was not to be. In a really deep draft—Wichita State's Cleanthony Early lasted all the way to #34—he dropped to the tenth pick of the second round, but the team that nabbed him valued him much higher than that:
Robinson III 26th or 27th on #Twolves board, per Flip.
— Darren Wolfson (@DarrenWolfson) June 27, 2014
At GRIII's draft party, his mother took a moment to note that this was the plan all along:
When the waiting was finally over, after the Timberwolves had finished the drama, Clay [Robinson's mother], along with Robinson took the podium.
She read a letter he wrote in high school about how he was going to miss school but that he was onto bigger and better things.
That in a couple of years, he would be playing in the NBA.
He called it.
With Robinson's selection, Michigan—as expected—ended with three players taken in the draft, tied with UCLA for the most among any school. However...
Jordan Morgan, Undrafted Free Agent, Minnesota Timberwolves
...that didn't mean Beilein's night was over. The last person remaining in the green room, Michigan's coach waited out every pick in the hope that a team would take a second-round flier on Jordan Morgan:
John Beilein will not leave until all of his players are drafted. pic.twitter.com/dH6WCBK1ba
— Daniel Feldman (@danfeldman31) June 27, 2014
John Beilein is the best. The absolute best.
Morgan didn't get picked, but he'll get a chance to earn a roster spot alongside GRIII, as he told Quinn today that he's joining the Timberwolves as an undrafted free agent. He'll get his shot on Minnesota's Summer League squad; they start play on July 12th, and you can find the whole schedule here. Even if Morgan doesn't get a spot on the Timberwolves, it's a great opportunity for him to audition for other NBA teams and scouts from other leagues.
How About The Pistons?
While Detroit lost their first-round pick (don't ask, or this vein in my head starts doing funny things), they used their second-rounder on Colorado guard Spencer Dinwiddie, considered a potential first-round prospect last year before coming back to school and suffering an ACL injury. How would I grade the pick?
A veritable flood. Congrats to Nik Stauskas, Mitch McGary, and Glenn Robinson III as they embark on their NBA careers. I'm not even going to linger on the fact that if the Pistons didn't get jumped in the draft order their shooting-desperate butts would have been sitting at #8, where Stauskas went to the Kings. I'm not going to just stand over here banging my head against the wall and moaning "whyyyyy."
I will take off my ratty, old Pistons hat and put my Michigan one on so I can be happy:
— William Locke (@william_locke24) June 27, 2014
Morgan signed a free agent contract with the Timberwolves.
Meanwhile Caris LeVert is projected as a lottery pick next year. #welcometothefactory
It's not impossible. A pretty stunning counterpoint to Michigan's claims that their issues with selling tickets are everyone's issues:
Hats off to #PennState fans. School sold out allotment of Over 21,000 student season tix all bought in just SIX minutes!
— Bruce Feldman (@BruceFeldmanCFB) June 27, 2014
Penn State's fan culture has remained that enthused through all of that. There's something to learn there. Or we could just keep hiring people from the Knicks with no clue about college sports or Michigan.
Keeping the band together. Michigan's three basketball assistants have signed contract extensions. Finally, someone spends money on something that they definitely should.
The other draft. The NHL Draft starts tonight; recruit Dylan Larkin is likely to go off the board in the first round, so there are a number of "here's this guy" articles. USA Today:
Larkin might be the safest pick because he's a gifted skater who could be a team's No. 2 center for 10 years.
"He is probably the most fluid skater in the draft," said Dan Marr, director of NHL Central Scouting. "He has a powerful stride, and he is also an intelligent player."
Red Line Report has him going 16th to… sigh… Columbus.
The Washington Post also had an interesting piece about how college players are underrated relative to their draft positions:
Of the players drafted from 2006 to 2009, 14.7 percent of players from Major Junior have hit that benchmark [of 40 NHL games]; players from collegiate programs, on the other hand, have hit that mark 17.1 percent of the time. And those players from Major Junior are picked close to a round earlier on average than those playing in college (97th pick vs. 121th pick).
This is not a huge surprise. College players play in a tougher environment against older players, in which points translate more readily to higher levels:
Despite this, college prospects are actually getting drafted less often even as the percentage of players in the NHL from the NCAA ranks hits all time highs—30 percent as of last year. Meanwhile:
A study of players selected in the NHL draft from 2000 to 2006 shows that an incredible 70 percent of U.S. college players taken in the first round went on to play at least 300 NHL games (100 or more games for goalies drafted in the first round) compared to 57 percent of all other players selected in the first round through the same time period.
There is a Moneyball opportunity here for any GM who isn't a neanderthal.
That's going well, then. Stewart Mandel's final take on the O'Bannon case: there was something there to argue, but instead the NCAA trotted out a bunch of empty overpaid suits. ESPN's Tom Farrey was willing to declare "Game Over" at halftime. Grantland's Charles Pierce titles his story simply "How It Ends."
World Cup stuff. LET'S GOOOOOOO
Zonal Marking has previews for the entire group, and despite the late shift by the US they are right on point with theirs.
The holding midfielder could still be Jones, if Klinsmann is adventurous, but Kyle Beckerman came into the side against Nigeria, having also played there against Mexico, and is a much better fit. Playing at the base of a diamond is a specialist role, and Klinsmann is fortunate to be able to call upon Beckerman, who has been playing in that position for Real Salt Lake, where he is captain.
The 2010 squad was packed with youth, and therefore it’s no surprise that the majority of players have retained their places as they’ve gained more experience. But as Ghana’s reputation has grown, they’ve been forced to adapt to different challenges. When they were the underdogs, they could sit back, remain compact and counter-attack extremely swiftly. Now opponents are aware of that threat, they’re forced to become more proactive, but lack the creativity and incision to dominate games and score goals.
The Ghanian friendly against South Korea could not have echoed that evaluation more closely; Ghana spent most of the game watching South Korea play around with the ball and not quite score, and then they executed ruthlessly—and somewhat fortunately—on the break. This is a game in which hoofing it upfield under pressure is understandable.
Note that Ghana has probably lost wing/forward Majeed Waris, who tore a quad in that game. The guy who replaced him scored a hat trick, but Waris was first choice and played well in qualifying.
Portugal always have roughly the same style, roughly the same strengths and weaknesses, and roughly the same chance of winning the competition. It’s no different this time around. Portugal’s starting XI for World Cup 2014 is extremely similar to their starting XI for Euro 2012, and it’s a familiar story – solid defence, talented central midfield, dangerous wide players, no prolific striker.
Talented players everywhere, but guaranteed cohesion nowhere. It feels like there’s a World Cup-winning XI somewhere in this side, and if Low had infinite friendlies to work out who works well together, he’d eventually find the winning combination.
There is no possibility that this World Cup will cast itself in Garrincha’s image more than Pelé’s. But if his spirit could just touch it a little. If the next month could just remind us that FIFA’s agenda is not all that soccer can be.
And here's an excellent and informative breakdown of how the US played against Nigeria and how important it is to keep things tight at the back:
Let's compare things to other things. The perennial easy post is back in force thanks to the unfamiliarity of where soccer nations fit in everyone's pantheon. Crimson Quarry takes a swing at comparing World Cup outfits to Big Ten basketball programs:
The Fab Five was a phenomenon in the 1990s, and the Wolverines made two title games but lost. Meanwhile, Total Football was a phenomenon in the 1970s for the Netherlands, who also made it to two World Cup finals and lost both. Since then, both teams have made it to the finals another time, but lost in the process. In addition, both have recently had strong offenses with suspect defenses, and love to refer to their teams by the colors of their jerseys. "Hup Holland" is basically the Dutch equivalent of "Go Blue." Plus, the state of Michigan even has a city called Holland. It makes too much sense.
That's a swing and a miss, from my perspective. Argentina is where it's at: offensively enthralling, weak on defense, had a moment of glory in the 80s.
Speaking of Indiana. IU QB Tre Roberson is transferring:
"We appreciate and thank Tre for his contributions to our football program both on and off the field," Wilson said. "He is an outstanding player and a great young man. We wish him well as he moves forward with his career."
Normally that would be a who-cares blip but after last year when Roberson came in for Sudfeld and nearly drove Indiana to a win, not so much. Taking the dual threat option away from the Hoosiers makes their offense considerably less scary.
Wait, what? Jeff Goodman has a list of the best developers of talent in the college basketball coaching ranks. John Beilein slides in at #3:
3) John Beilein, Michigan Wolverines: He’s starting to churn out NBA guys lately -- Trey Burke and Tim Hardaway Jr., and Nik Stauskas, Mitch McGary and Glenn Robinson III this year. “Player development,” said one NBA scout. “Bottom line. He works on players' individual games. There’s a lot of shooting, of course, but every practice he takes 20 or so minutes to focus on getting guys better.”
This makes plenty of sense, as Beilein's made a specialty of making three-stars into early entries starting with the Burke/Hardaway class, and with Caris LeVert on the horizon Michigan will have dumped six guys into the NBA in three years, only one of whom was particularly hyped when he committed—McGary.
That makes sense. The rest of the list… hoo boy. #2 is Ben Howland who is unemployed at the moment. #4 is Tom Izzo, because… uh… Draymond? I mean, when your list of top NBA developers has an entry that starts like this…
Izzo doesn’t necessarily churn out a ton of NBA guys
…you may want to re-evaluate your list.
Calipari also shows up, because he doesn't tear many ACLs.
That's one way to approach it. Miami has decided they can sell more tickets by getting people to go to fewer games.
It's basically a two-game package of the FSU game and the North Carolina game, comparable to Michigan's mini-packages with Penn State and anything else except incrementally more desperate.
Come on down. Sounds like the Michigan Elite Camp couldn't have gone much better from a recruiting standpoint. UMHoops caught up with Derryck Thornton, Jr.:
“It was probably my best visit, it was great,” Thornton reiterated. “The staff did a great job so that was one of my better visits, if not the best one.” …
“I’m going to wait for my dad to get back and we’re going to talk about that soon,” Thornton responded when asked if he’d think about committing early. “I’m not sure, but I think I’m willing to commit and make the early decision.”
Rivals echoes the confidence($) you might have on their message board—Thornton's dad responded to a question about whether Battle and Thornton will end up in Ann Arbor and got the response "high"—and I'm pretty sure one of the Thorntons—probably the elder—registered for a Scout account so he could assert that Thornton would not stay on the West Coast. It would be excellent to get a commitment by the end of summer.
Meanwhile, Tyus Battle was also impressed…
“Michigan was awesome, we had a great time,” Gary said. “Tyus really enjoyed the visit. The coaching staff is very thorough. We really enjoyed their presentation and the campus and the way they would use Tyus. Obviously, academically Michigan is something we like a lot.”
…but doesn't seem like he's anywhere near as likely to drop in the near future. The Big Blue death star looms:
“We’re trying to really focus on Kentucky right now,”Gary Battle told SNY.tv by phone. “That’s always been something we had planned to do and Cal had expressed some high interest in the kid and he’s always wanted to go and check it out.”
Battle will be a… wait for it… battle. If Michigan can secure Thornton, the two guys have said they want to play together. Battle's father:
“And for Tyus, I think a lot of guys want to play with Tyus but Derryck definitely, he’s an easy kid to want to play with as well according to Tyus. They were pretty excited about it cause they consider each other brothers and have known each other for a long time.”
Let's hope that package stays together. FWIW, Battle's father flat-out stated "I think Derryck's going to Michigan."
Given all this, it'll be interesting to see what happens on June 15th. Cassius Winston has checked the offer boxes and is pretty much a five star himself, and KY PG Quentin Goodin says he expects an offer too. If I had to bet, I'd say he ends up disappointed. Winston is on another level and instate. He probably gets one.
Hello, eh. Hockey announces their four late additions: Tony Calderone, Sam Piazza, Niko Porikos, and Alex Talcott. (They're still working on Zach Werenski's accelerated entry, it appears.) The release is the usual but it does give you some indication of where these guys might slot in on the depth chart. Talcott gets "depth" and "energy" mentions and Porikos is compared to Andrew Sinelli; they seem like guys for down the road.
"Tony comes here with the reputation of a player who puts numbers up and has a great shot," associate head coach Billy Powers said. "Offensively, we expect Tony to add to his game here. He's a skilled offensive player who has had two good years in the USHL"
"Sam is a defenseman who is not afraid to join the rush," Powers said. "He's got great offensive instincts and we're hoping that he adds some offense at the blue line. We're excited that Sam will have an opportunity to show what he can do early on."
…on the other hand, should compete for spots this fall. The four just announced join Cutler Martin, Dexter Dancs, and Dylan Larkin as incoming freshmen. Chris Heisenberg's listing Werenski as a 2014 recruit, but Michigan likely cannot announce that until he's on campus.
Three years after suffering a gruesome career-ending injury in 2005, former Alabama star Tyrone Prothro wrote a book, Catch & Hold. He wanted to include some action shots from his playing career, but upon contacting a university photographer he learned he'd have to buy the images from the school's website for $10 apiece. So, he didn't include them.
Uh… wow. I bet that's just for a download and doesn't even include redistribution rights. Athletes! Do we have a picture of you? You can use it for free. I would like to thank Kevin Trahan for blowing up the NCAA's constant assertions that "hey, you get stuff!" is anything approximating a legal defense.
Oh man. Ramzy instructs you how not to be an asshole to recruits. I do not want to get on the ol' high horse because I've seen my share of miserable awful things from Michigan fans—we have it just as bad—and the linked piece is a fine, fine intra-fanbase immolation. But… wow.
AIN'T NO REGULATIONS AGAINST CHILD BRIDES AMIRITE
Maybe 95% as bad.
Where does John Beilein rank among Michigan's all-time basketball coaches? This was a board question I began answering there until I realized I had written half a column and not written my Tuesday column. Part I explains my subjective criteria and covers Mather, Oosterbaan, Strack and Orr.
So without further ado..
Show the candidates chart again.
- Wherever I list a year it means the season that began the fall in the year previous, e.g. 1969 = 1968-'69 seasion
- * Rather than winning % I showed their average record over a 30-game season.
- ** Average number of tournament games his teams would play in. A 1.00 means his team will make the tourney and go out in the 1st round. I took out the play-in rounds.
- † Manny Harris was recruited by Amaker but played his entire career for Beilein. Stauskas, GRIII, LeVert, and McGary at least can be counted as future NBA players. It's too early to say the same for Walton/Irvin but it's not a bad bet either.
Here's Part II. These got longer because now we're into my personal recollection period.
|Maloof is a skateboarding cup.|
Bill Frieder (1981-'89)
Career at M: 9 seasons, 189 wins (68%), 2 Big Ten titles
All-Americans: Gary Grant (1988), Glen Rice (1989)
Avg NCAA Tourney: 1.13
Pros he recruited (NBA games): Glen Rice (1,000), Loy Vaught (689), Terry Mills (678), Gary Grant (552), Tim McComick (483), Rumeal Robinson (336), Roy Tarpley (280), Sean Higgins (220), Demetrius Calip (7), and Richard Rellford. [EDIT: Eric Riley (186)] That's
10 11 guys and 4,249 4,435 games.
[Continued after the jump]
Beilein by Fuller, Orr and Ooster via Bentley.
I got this question from PeteM on the board: Where does John Beilein rank among Michigan's all-time basketball coaches?
The question is subjective since everyone has their own criteria. Mine: wins (total), winning percentage, Big Ten regular season titles, tournament success, All-Americans/NBA prospects, and general good guy-itude.
Non-candidates for completeness:
I kept Cowles out of it since this was getting long and he only coached for a few (wild) seasons, wherein he dragooned football stars and developed the pick and roll.
For ease, I call the 2013-'14 season "2014" etc.
* Rather than winning % I showed their average record over a 30-game season.
** NCAA tournament factor, equivalent to average number of tournament games his teams would play in. A 1.00 means his average team will make the tourney and go out in the 1st round. I took out the play-in rounds.
† This could as well be 7 or 8: Manny Harris was recruited by Amaker but played his entire career for Beilein. Stauskas, GRIII, LeVert, and McGary at least can be counted as future NBA players. It's too early to say the same for Walton/Irvin but it's not a bad bet either.
I ended up breaking this up into two posts because it was getting long, so here's the candidates chronologically through Johnny Orr:
|Mather [via Wikipedia]|
E.J. Mather (1920-'28)
Career at M: 9 seasons, 108 wins (67%), 3 Big Ten titles (1 outright)
All-Americans: Bennie Oosterbaan (1927 & '28), Richard Doyle (1926), Harry Kipke (1924)
Pros: Kind of pre-dates that.
Story: Took over a young program and went 3-9 his first year, then tied for the Big Ten championship his second, winning his last 8 games of the season to tie Purdue and Wisconsin at the end. The 1926-'27 season, when Bennie Oosterbaan lent his talents, was the best; Michigan went 10-2 in-conference and 14-3 overall. Soon after that season Mather had major surgery for cancer, and wasn't the same after that. Yost coached the 1927-'28 team in Mather's name; the cancer claimed his life that August.
Thing: Mather was also a Yost football assistant, and two of his players later became football coaches.
Better than a Beilein: It's tough to judge that far back or guess what the future might have held, but he didn't have a nationally competitive team until his 8th year so I'm comfortable putting him behind.
[After the jump it gets tougher]