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.