WARNING: This post contains graphic depictions of Glenn Robinson III committing violent acts upon basketball rims for no apparent reason. If you suffer from jam-related heart problems, please high-five your nearest cardiologist before viewing.
It's the weekly, roundtabley feature where we ask MGoStaff things that MGoReaders are asking. This week's recruits:
Brian Cook, 5-star, Center, 6'4/190. Finds gifs very exciting.
Seth Fisher, 4-star, Wing/guard, 6'0/238. Pure shooter.
Ace Anbender, 5-star, PG, 6'0/180, Mr. Basketball in Michigan
Mathlete, 4-star, SG, 5'10/185, Kansas offer
Blue in South Bend, 5-star, PF, 6'0/190, McDonald's All-American, #2 player in Indiana
And the query:
We have no doubts that John Beilein can unearth diamonds, and now there's mounting evidence he can jump into Top 10 battles as well. Do you think basketball crutin' can maintain these trends long-term, or that once the glow of a Finals run wears off and other teams catch on to his tricks that Michigan is in danger of falling back to the pack?
BiSB: A couple of things happened that might give this Time of Peace and Good Harvests some staying power. The first is the recent set of facility upgrades. The practice facility is clearly a big thing, and Crisler has gone from a near-crippling liability to, at worst, a neutral factor. Second, and probably more important, is that Beilein showed the ability to coach a team filled with elite talent, and to use thoroughbreds properly. The knock on Beilein is always that he's a "system guy" who uses faux-Euro tweeners to run top-of-the-key weaves and launch 30 3's a game. Michigan was getting out and running, throwing 'oops all over the place, and generally looking like an athletic killing machine. They even used a big man effectively. As much as the Aneurysm of Leadership was the turning point in this whole thing, blue chip talent doesn't want to be Zack Novak. They want to be GRIII, and to play for a coach who can utilize them properly. That Michigan made the final was obviously huge, but the fact that Michigan got to show their high-flying wares on a national stage was equally important. Also, Trey Burke was Trey Burke, which Trey Burke.
(…except when Trey Burke was Spike Albrecht doing his Trey Burke impression.)
Seth: As long as we're not expecting them all to be Trey Burke I agree the tournament run and the GR3-ness of the current roster should see Michigan settle somewhere among the top of the conference. Basketball recruiting isn't like football: there are a few teams who compete for the one-and-dones, and a few teams like MSU and Duke who remain consistently competitive from a steady stream of future NBA benchmen who want college degrees, pocked by an annual five-star or two who want part of the winning that entails. The thing that makes Beilein's niche sustainable, I think, is that it plays to Michigan's strengths as a program. It's still system ball (just with better side attributes). The difference now is he has access to those All-Americans who would be perfect candidates for his system and Michigan's academics, but who were scared off by the appearance that it couldn't compete at the top levels.
Mathlete: I actually think the current cycles will be the most critical. Beilein built the program to where it is today without guys who were elite prospects when committing (aside from Mitch McGary's one season on the books) and he knows who he is. He is going to keep building with the guys he needs and knows how to piece together. Today his scouting can include players inside the Top 100 lists, which is nice. The current danger is can he successfully do what he has always done while managing a roster of early departures. In basketball losing one player early can really alter the make-up of a team. This year Michigan will be replacing two and possibly two or five next year if Chad Ford has his say. This is what you call a good kind of problem but it is a new one. I have no doubt Beilein has put a lot more thought into this than we have, but he hasn't been around this on an annual basis like a Calipari has. The next two or three seasons on the court and in the recruiting cycles will determine if Michigan is elite to stay or whether last season was the high point and the program returns to where they were 2-3 years ago, consistent tournament team but not consistently elite.
Ace: I think the staff can maintain or even improve on this level of recruiting for a number of reasons, first and foremost because John Beilein and Co. are so good at identifying talent early. It's easier to get five-stars when you identify them when they're three-stars (GRIII) or start recruiting them heavily before the basketball blue-bloods (a big factor in Michigan's standing with Devin Booker).
The last couple years have also provided the perfect storm for Beilein to recruit at a level above his prior standard. Bryan mentioned the facilities and probably undersold them—having poked around the practice facility, I'd say Crisler Center is a critical recruiting tool. The Fab Five documentary came out, giving recruits reason to think Michigan basketball is cool for the first time since, well, before Tommy Amaker, anyway. Oh, and the basketball team made the title game on the strength of a three-star point guard developing into Trey MFing Burke, turning the supporting cast of talented freshmen into household names (even Spike!) and giving Beilein the ability to pitch national championship potential and have it really mean something.
We've already seen the interest from blue-chip prospects start to seriously pick up; look no further for evidence than 2015 five-star center Stephen Zimmerman, who hails from Las Vegas and appears to be showing the most interest in Michigan and Kentucky. That shows the momentum this program has right now. The key will be keeping Michigan at a level where they're competing for Big Ten titles and hitting the second weekend of the NCAA tournament (at least) with regularity. If they do that, these kind of players will keep poking around the program, and enough will sign to give the Wolverines more than enough talent when combined with Beilein's diamonds in the rough.
Gratuitous GR360 dunk. /high fives Brahmajee
Brian: Basketball recruiting is far more volatile than football just because of the numbers involved. Take a look at Michigan State's current recruiting class: a couple of random three-stars they picked up late after Jabari Parker decided on Duke, along with everyone else they were recruiting. Or envision a world in which Mitch McGary goes to a more traditional power. So it's hard to judge when Michigan's barely been in a big-timer recruiting battle yet.
Instead they've made their hay on identifying prospects quickly and getting them to pull the trigger immediately, as GRIII and Walton and Irvin did. These days I don't think John Beilein can walk into a gym without the rest of the country perking their ears up. Since Beilein's going to wait to offer them and other schools aren't, we're in for a number of Devin Booker recruitments where Michigan has been laying groundwork for years but has to fend off guys who got wise a bit later.
The 2014 and 2015 classes will be the acid test. Lock down Booker and grab an elite 2015 big to go with some top 100 wings and it's on at the top of the league; settle for plan Bs and Michigan likely levels off as a contender a half-step behind Indiana, State, OSU, etc.
I think they will get enough of their top targets. Michigan's got stability, facilities, a sexy run to the title game, a fun offense, a reputation for talent development, a burgeoning list of NBA alumni, and a hell of a staff. They don't even start recruiting guys who might need a little help to qualify or want a little something on the side. What's missing? A couple more years of being in the national consciousness, and that's coming.
BiSB: I also think that, to an extent, football and basketball are feeding off each other. Lets not forget that the Commit-a-palooza last year happened during the Michigan/OSU basketball weekend, and IIRC most of the top basketball commits have been spotted at football games. Michigan has some very public swag these days (praise to the Swag Mattison), and there doesn't appear to be a slowdown in the near future.
Forest view, though: Michigan has brought in, what, six ESPN 100 guys in the last two classes? With a couple of five stars? And they are in the hunt for some even bigger names going forward? Beilein Über Ham on Wheat with Mayo.