I was afraid I was going to be the McHobbit of the group.
This Week's Obsession: Beilein's Boom and the Sustainability of Shakalaka
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.
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.
Maybe at the beginning of the recruiting cycle, but once the services caught Beilein in your gym the rankings blew up.
He picks up new aspects of his system as he goes along. I agree with the largest risk being Beilein planning appropriately for early departures. He has outright stated that he doesn't specifically recruit "one-and-dones", but how long can that continue? If he is going after legitimate top 10 talent that has plans of the NBA, he may not be able to wait. I think he will continue to have to identify underrated talent that can complement the high-talent players that could be one and dones. Nik Stauskas is a good example, while he certainly could make it in the NBA, I don't see him leaving after this year, this would give us (conceivably) 3 years with him in the system as a knock down shooter/wing that can have highly touted, top-25 guys around him at Forward and PG.
I think he is recruiting some one and done types like Looney and Zimmerman and Stone, but he's also finding that nice mid-range where you have high quality college players who stick around, like a Walton. Chatman, Edwards, Bluiett, even Booker are also folks that will stick around at least a couple years, and they yoinked Doyle and LeVert and even Spike.
Beilein's biggest problem in that department has been making Trey Burke into the best player in the country and watching GRIII turn into an NBA caliber athlete. This is the definition of first world problems.
You might not be a half bad intramural team. Why did I think you would all be shorter?
I'm 6'0" the way a Cass Tech corner is 6'0". And that is to say, not.
we all know Roster Heights/Weights are often exaggerated...and pretty badly sometimes.
So is 5'5" the new 6'0"?
#10 shows very poor hip rotation on the SpikeBreak.
Coming in at 230 look for Seth to redshirt in his first year to shed a few pounds and gain some quickness
Sadly the quickness was lost when the 20s were.
perhaps the most venerated coach of our era. I mean beloved of fans in a way that transcends the day-to-day stuff--like Dean Smith or John Wooden. I've been saying this for several years, and come to believe it ever more firmly. He'll win some, he'll lose some--because you do. But Michigan will field top ten teams for the duration of his tenure. And he will go to the Hall of Fame, and be venerated when he bows out with the greatest coaches. He's warm, he's humble, and he reeks of integrity. And he will never regret that player or two who, inevitably, he does miss out on because of his self-imposed rules.
In Beilein and Hoke we've got two guys for whom a kind of low-key decency is paramount; I like to think that there's a bit of an old-school midwestern ethos at work there.
"he reeks of integrity"...pungent...burns the nostrils
? Maybe less stanky.
Yeah, it's cool to have a coach that even opposing fans can't say anything bad about. We're lucky to have him. (Of course, this comes after about 15 years of pretty much nothing but misery in this sport, so it's just starting to even out.)
I think the next two recruiting classes are going to be very important. How good these classes are may indicate whether Michigan is on the way back to becoming a national power or may just pop up every 3 or 4 years with a good season.
2014 we're in on a number of good prospects so it could end up decent, but 2015 is where we should hope for a better class because of the National Title Game run.
Michigan was THE basketball school in this state until Maurice Taylor rolled his Explorer and Bill Martin decided to neglect facilities and hire coaches like Ellerbe and Amaker.
College sports tend to be somewhat cyclical - wouldn't be surprised to see Beilein take us on one hell of a ride the next 5-10 years.
Here's an idea for a post on the blog that maybe one of the panel would like to tackle.... Has any other school ever had the combined recruiting success on both basketball and football that Michigan is enjoying right now? Maybe OSU or Florida?
As long as it's a sub.
On that subject, ham with no rye or mustard, BiSB? Oh, are we eating egg salad on cinnamon raisin bread now too???
Thanks for making me spit my beer.
another factor that was overlooked is the general competition in the B1G. Unlike football, the B1G was the best conference as far as quality teams go and I think that goes a long ways with recruits. I don't like too much of the comparison but the B1G:basketball::SEC:football as for as competition from top to bottom. Also, a lot of top recruits are way closer than what we're finding in football....
Beilein asked similar questions covered by AA.com-
Also just finished up talking to Beilein on WTKA, but no podcasts up yet for today.
I have two thoughts on this topic, one positive and the other negative.
First, the positive.....
- If the NCAA is ever successful about fixing the officiating and flow of the game more like the NBA and less like whatever it is that Wisconsin plays, that would only favor Michigan. Imagine playing Michigan's offense but in a more wide open league where they couldn't beat you up constantly.
Now the negative....
- The two programs I always wanted to be when it came to recruiting were MSU and Duke. They filled their rosters with good players who fit the system, were good kids, weren't afraid to work their way up through the ranks, and stuck around for 3-4 years. I wanted to be that stable program that was consistently contending rather than the OSU/Kentucky plan of targeting a high number of early departure risks.
- For all of Michigan's problems under Fisher and Ellerbe, one of the biggest ones was being unable to keep kids on the roster for one reason or another. (That and the horrific coaching.....)
- To date, despite the number of early departures for the NBA, Michigan has only signed one true high profile recruit in McGary and it was pretty obvious his senior year that he wouldn't be ready for the NBA after just one season. Despite that, we've had Morris, Burke, and Hardaway all leave early with McGary, Robinson, Irvin, Walton, and even Stauskas potential flight risks. The margin for error is slim when you have that much roster turnover (see Kentucky 2012-2013).
The good news is that we still have a foundation with guys like Spike, LeVert, Donnall, etc. that should fit in well. But unlike football I won't be upset if Beilein chooses to sign a couple of 3-4 star players now and then rather than holding his breath for only 5-star guys.
Sorry but I'm still trying to sort out how you've labeled Irvin & Walton as potential flight risks... That is what you're saying right?
The two programs I always wanted to be when it came to recruiting were MSU and Duke. They filled their rosters with good players who fit the system, were good kids, weren't afraid to work their way up through the ranks, and stuck around for 3-4 years.
But this is misleading - MSU and Duke recruit a lot of blue-chip guys. They just don't seem to develop them as quickly as we do. Adreian Payne, for instance, was a 5-star recruit.
I'm enjoying these posts
Of course Beilein can recruit that way long term. All these fancy 5 stars and Trey Burkes we've had all came before we were anything close to a Final Four team. We landed Burke, Stauskas, McGary, GRIII, Smotrcyz, Brundidge, Irvin, Walton, Donnal, etc. all before this final four run. Back then, the recruiting pitch was basically "Hi, I'm John Beilein. We've gone to the tournament 2 of the last 3 years after not making it for 11 and we're building fancy buildings. Come play basketball for me" and shazaam they followed. They only guy we've gotten since the Final Four is Ricky Doyle (and I think he may have committed before that even)
Feels like the concensus is "sustained success, but don't expect FF every year." Which sounds right. Part of the reason teams like UK, Kansas, UNC, etc. stay elite is because they are fine with one-and-dones (especially UK). Those teams can make a run any year, and even if they flame our just as often, people tend to remember your success more than your failures. Heck, MSU hasn't won a title since 2000 and hasn't had an NBA success you'd identify with the program (sorry Z-Bo), but they pop on that final weekend just frequently enough that they are considered an elite national team. I see no way UM plays in the NC title game next year and I can definitely see a team like Kentucky or KU doing it, but at the same time Beilein's talent at identifying kids should keep them toward the top of the conference most years, marked with the random Elite 8+ run.
The sweet spot in recruiting. He gets guys who are really good, but not enough to be one and dones. GR3 was close but he wouldn't be in the top 10 like many UK guys do. Beilein finds guys who are going to be very good for multiple years, not just outstanding for one