Before the possibility emerged of John Beilein leaving to coach the Detroit Pistons, everything was falling into place. In Luke Yaklich, Beilein had found the defensive coordinator he long needed to consistently compete not just for Big Ten championships, but national championships. After a most unlikely Final Four run, the Wolverines reloaded with one of the most talented incoming recruiting classes in program history. Charles Matthews announced his return and 2019 blue chip prospect Jalen Wilson committed in rapid succession. More five-star talent looked to be on the horizon.
And then, for the better part of a week, it was up in the air. Sure, Beilein could leave Ann Arbor today as the greatest coach in program history, but—like with so many of his rapidly developed players—his work at Michigan would feel unfinished, not for lack of accomplishment but the distinct possibility of even greater heights.
If fans of any program know that periods of great prosperity must be appreciated in their time, it's Michigan basketball fans. (At least those of a certain age.) In choosing between a great new challenge or conquering an old one, Beilein seemed to take the same perspective. Well, either that or he met Tom Gores. Regardless, he told the Freep's Nick Baumgardner that he chose to pull out of the search when he realized where he wanted to finish his career:
“It became very clear to me where I was meant to finish coaching,” Beilein told the Free Press on Thursday after a speaking engagement in Ann Arbor. “If you followed my career, it was ‘you’ve built this up, you’ve got it right and you leave the program in better shape than you found it.’ And then go and do it again somewhere else.
“I wasn’t offered the (Pistons) job. I was a finalist, but I wasn’t offered the job. And I decided rather than to go through it more, I knew where I needed to be.”
Beilein's contract extension, which The Athletic's Brendan Quinn reports is near completion, should pay him around $4 million per year (up from $3.37M) through the 2022-23 season, which would put him among college basketball's highest-paid coaches. One would expect the assistants will get nice raises, too. Warde Manuel appears to recognize what needs to be done to maintain an elite program.
[Hit THE JUMP for a quick Big Ten outlook, a recruiting update, and more.]
On the heels of Charles Matthews announcing his return, John Beilein's landed his first 2019 commitment, and it's a big one. Denton (TX) Guyer forward Jalen Wilson, the #34 overall prospect in the class, announced his choice of Michigan over a final group of Baylor, Kansas, Marquette, Oklahoma State, and UCLA this evening. (EDIT: With a video you should very much watch, I should add, now that I've done so myself.)
Wilson, who was named after Jalen Rose, pledged to his mother's favorite program a couple weeks after taking a visit to Ann Arbor. A month ago, this is what he told Rivals when asked about his interest in the Wolverines:
“They really want me to come in and be a wolf; that is what they say by being someone that comes in, leads the team, scores, plays on both ends and gets the offense the ball. I love all the coaches and really they just have communicated well with me for what I want to do.”
They don't tell that to everyone. Beilein and Luke Yaklich led Wilson's recruiting; this is a promising sign for Yaklich's recruiting chops. While Wilson, for the moment, fills Michigan's only open scholarship for 2019, more space is certain to open up, and the coaches are actively recruiting more top-tier talent.
4*, #8 SF,
4*, 97, #7 SF,
4*, #8 SF,
I was annoyed that Rivals made me count up their position rankings for them until I got to ESPN and Wilson was missing from their database entirely. ESPN put out a cursory top 60 last summer; Wilson didn't make it and hasn't made the, from what I can tell, one or two updates since. I have no idea if they've even looked at him. The thing about the state of the recruiting industry, especially in ESPN's case, also applies to hoops. A lot of the best work out there is being done by independent sites now.
Anyway, Wilson is a top-40 prospect to the two sites that have profiles on him. If his #34 overall ranking holds, he'd be the seventh-highest-ranked Michigan signee since 2000, according to 247's database. He's listed at 6'6", 185 pounds on 247 and 6'8", 210 pounds on Rivals; several scouting reports split the difference, and either way he's a true three or a smaller four in Beilein's system—he should bring positional versatility and defensive switchability. (That's a word, right?)
The Nets don't have much in the way of shooting in the frontcourt and aren't really committed to any 4s or 5s long term besides promising rookie Jarrett Allen and the dead-weight contract of Timofey Mozgov.
Wagner brings floor spacing and a high-energy style of play. He was one of the breakout players of March, leading Michigan to a Big Ten title and a surprise run to the NCAA championship game.
The Raptors have traded that pick to the Nets, so that would mean Caris Levert, Nik Stauskas, and Wagner were all… uh… Nets. Since mock drafts are deadly accurate, NY-based Michigan grads should buy their season tickets now.
This is not a layup-focused point guard. IA PG DJ Carton's latest highlight video is mostly nasty contested dunks.
I preferred our previous ignorance about Crisler's scorer, because back in those innocent days I could point out that Michigan's defensive renassaince was in no small part because they were elite at forcing non-rim twos. Now I can only suspect that. Now I know that some part of that is a home scorer who thinks only uncontested dunks or layups are "at the rim."
One of the more telling sequences from Amazon’s behind-the-scenes look at Michigan’s 2017 season came during the Wolverines’ 42–13 loss at Penn State. After another failed drive, Michigan quarterback John O’Korn came to the sideline. “No blocking,” O’Korn told Harbaugh. “There’s no blocking.”
Andy Staples inserts that into a piece about Shea Patterson's attempt to save Michigan's offense. I do have an issue with Staples citing raw yards per carry numbers from Michigan's less successful outings on the ground:
Last season, they averaged 2.6 yards a carry against Michigan State, 2.5 yards a carry against Penn State, 1.5 yards a carry against Wisconsin, 2.8 yards a carry against Ohio State and 2.2 yards a carry against South Carolina. That places even more pressure on the quarterback, figuratively (because he’s expected to do it all) and literally (because blocking poorly leads to large humans in the quarterback’s face and the lack of a run game means defenses can dedicate more bodies to covering potential targets).
Once you move sacks to the correct bin, Michigan averaged 3.9, 4.3, 2.2, 4.6, and 2.9 YPC in those games, which is not good but is a considerably more accurate evaluation than sack-included numbers for the #117 pass pro team in the country.
Another thing to note on this one is the safety who eventually tackled Evans: he is rotated back by the motion and spends a second or two reading the play out before barreling downfield. That makes for a good gain instead of good blocks and three yards. The difference between that nine yard gain and this three yard one is evident:
PSU safety to top of screen
PSU also got a DT out there on a stunt, but that's just a thing that happened. It's not a trend. The trend is the safeties firing at Michigan's ground game with impunity. PSU's safety froze on the first one because he didn't know what he was looking at. Once he saw the play once he was able to fire because nobody cares about Michigan's passing game. That's a version of what happened to early Rodriguez offenses where the new stuff would work for a bit and then when the defense had seen it they curled up and died, because they could only do one thing.
Michigan's lack of a passing game stifled their run game, not vice versa. Patterson's worst case scenario is a thousand times better than what Michigan got from the spot a year ago. It'll all go to hell if Michigan can't pass protect better, but Patterson really does solve a swath of Michigan's issues just by being a proven P5 quarteback.
Speaking of. If you can stomach it, James Light highlighted a couple of Michigan's many, many missed opportnities against Ohio State:
Patterson certainly would have won that game, for one.
Can anyone catch up? A Jalen Wilson post-visit interview($) is mostly unrevealing, but he does omit UCLA as a contender and say he's going to commit before his school year starts. Wilson's visit generated a big Michigan run on the crystal ball, with both Steve Lorenz and Josh Henschke joining various others.
Wilson has as-of-yet unscheduled visits he wants to take to Baylor, Marquette, Oklahoma State, and Kansas. Hopefully those remain vague.
Pitino flips! In the media! The Washington Post has an extensive story on new IU recruit Romeo Langford's college decision featuring one Rick Pitino:
In January 2017, Pitino said, two Adidas officials met with him to discuss their efforts to keep Nike and Under Armour from landing Langford, whom Pitino was recruiting. Pitino’s account was supported by text messages he shared with The Washington Post for a previous story.
“The way they phrased it, it was [whichever shoe company] was going to pay the dad’s AAU program the most money, gets it,” Pitino said in a recent phone interview. A few days later, Adidas’s league added a new team: Twenty Two Vision, featuring Romeo Langford on the court and Tim Langford as team director. Shoe company sponsorships can reach $100,000 to $150,000, and team directors who limit expenses can pay themselves salaries from those amounts.
“That’s the way that world works,” Pitino said. “Which is completely legal, by the way.”
This space is in full heighten the contradictions mode about college basketball and welcomes any and all revelations about how ineffectual the NCAA's attempts to prevent money from flowing to folks with marketable skills are. A pissed-off Rick Pitino napalming everyone he can in the Washington Post is a boon for everyone.
This is the kind of stuff I can't see from the broadcast angle. One caveat: pretty sure that's Rutgers providing the opposition. Michigan had almost as many sacks (5) as Rutgers had completions (8) in that game, thus allowing things like "deep centerfield safety gets his nose on a ballcarrier at the line of scrimmage."
I would not trade John Beilein for anyone. Brad Stevens makes you think, though.
WELCOME YOUR NEW GOD GAMBLOR. The Supreme Court struck down a federal ban on sports gambling, thus paving the way for every state hard up for a little cash to legalize and regulate the wildly popular activity. (Probably: Richard Hoeg has more law-talking details.) And if college athletic departments have their hand out…
Source: Tentative agreement in West Virginia would give WVU and Marshall a cut of sports betting. Would be first two NCAA programs with such an arrangement.
"If this is legalized, what the ADs said is that we'll have to spend more money on compliance and we're going to have increased risk," McMillen told ESPN in a Thursday phone interview. "What was shown, at schools with regulated [sports betting] markets -- Nevada, UNLV -- they spend considerably more on compliance, because it's more open, more transparent, more in your face than the other schools where it's illegal. The fact of the matter is that the onus is going to fall on Marshall and West Virginia."
Those compliance departments have to send out way more than one tweet in March about not joining an NCAA pool? They have to have a workshop about how gambling on sports is bad if you play sports? I'm not sure what the big expense is.
"We believe that students ought to be able to benefit from name, image and likeness but you can’t decide a program until you know the legal parameters,” Rice told USA TODAY Sports. “That was the point. I think some of the commentary suggested that we didn’t really speak on this issue. I think we did speak on this issue, it’s just that we understand there’s a legal framework that has to be developed first.”
Rice said she thought the commission’s report was “pretty clear” in its support of athletes being able to cash in once the various legal issues are resolved. But she maintains that the NCAA cannot do this while a pair of ongoing cases are pending.
"I think people may have looked at the fact that we said there's a legal framework to be developed and said, 'Oh, well, maybe they're punting on this.' Nobody was intending to punt on it."
As something that costs the NCAA nothing, has broad public support, cuts down on a bunch of self-contradictory rulings, and would pave the way for the return of NCAA Football, restoring NIL rights to college athletes is an obvious slam dunk. It thus has a 37% chance of actually happening.
We don’t yet know the order in which the freshmen of 2017-18 will be selected, of course, but, by Jonathan Givony’s lights, we may be due for a similar evaluative echo next month on draft night.
RSCI 2017 Projection 2018
Marvin Bagley III 1 3
Michael Porter, Jr. 2 8
Deandre Ayton 3 1
Mohamed Bamba 4 5
Trevon Duval 5 45
Collin Sexton 6 9
Wendell Carter, Jr. 7 7
Mitchell Robinson 8 22
Jaren Jackson, Jr. 9 4
Kevin Knox 10 15
Yes, Duval stands out, and, sure, projected No. 6 pick Trae Young made very good use of the one additional year of evaluation afforded to NBA teams. The question then becomes whether one-and-done earns its evaluative keep simply by having flagged the fact that Duval “should” drop 40 spots and Young “should” jump 20.
That’s pretty much all the current eligibility requirement is accomplishing in terms of player evaluations. Otherwise, we could have held this draft a year ago, and it would have looked highly similar to what will (we think) transpire next month.
Actually, even that gives one-and-done too much evaluative credit. In an alternate reality where players could be drafted straight out of high school, it’s possible Duval would have been a 2017 pick — but Young, surely, would have gone undrafted. Then, after the amazing freshman season that we now know happened, Young would have been a 2018 lottery pick. In this scenario, then, the lone evaluative function of one-and-done with regard to the top of the board is to prevent Duval from having been a high draft pick a year ago, period.
And Duval had to enter the draft anyway because Duke recruited over him with authority. There are probably some extraordinary busts the NBA has avoided, but the one-and-done rationale about preventing Kwame Browns is extremely flimsy.
No. 16 Kentucky vs. UIC | 2:30 p.m. ET Friday on WatchESPN
Michigan vs. Notre Dame | 12 p.m. Friday on ESPN2
Softball regionals are, well, regional, so that's not a definite statement that Michigan was #17, but if they weren't they were fairly close. Unfortunately, Michigan is entering the tournament on a skid after getting blown out twice at the Big Ten tourney.
Iggy can dunk. But he has still not set a video of himself to Lust for Life.
This here site has mentioned a couple times that the restricted numbers and big fish looking at the hook in the 2019 class mean that a sit-one-play-any transfer would have to be quite the prospect. Wichita State's Austin Reaves—a college-proven Just A Shooter who hit 45% a year ago—was a better bet than a Robert Morris player with a 102 ORTG, but still didn't seem compelling enough to occupy a precious 2019 roster slot.
After some back and forth it looks like Michigan agrees. A Reaves visit scheduled for this weekend is off and the twitter account that's reporting all the Reaves news excludes Michigan from a new top four, with a decision imminent. Purdue is in that top 4 and for no reason I expect him to end up there so he can play off a 7'3" guy and run around like Rip Hamilton.
There is a visit on this weekend, and it's a big one: TX SF Jalen Wilson. Wilson recently released a top six with a couple of notable exclusions:
Those exclusions are Oklahoma, who had one of the three CBs ventured for Wilson, and UNC. The Tarheels wanted to wait until the July evaluation period before deciding on an offer; Wilson's ready to move on. A week or so ago he told 24/7 that Michigan, Baylor, Marquette, and Kansas were "really prioritizing him," so that moves a couple of contenders down the list.
Kansas rather looms, but a visit near decision time gives Michigan their shot to pitch UNMATCHED DEVELOPMENT. Also uh?
Top 30-ish players committing is always a believe-it-when-you-see-it event for a scrupulously, uh, scrupulous program. Wilson looks like the rare bird who might execute the maneuver. If you'd like the nitty-gritty on him, UMHoops has a breakdown of his game. He's an Iggy-esque guy who can get to the basket but he needs to work on his 3P%.
UPDATE: Ace points out that Snow just issued a Michigan crystal ball and explained on the The Victors Club. He doesn't think a commitment is likely this weekend, but that it may be a formality.
With all due respect to the other schools on that list—Michigan has lost recruiting battles to most—that's the kind of top six for a top 50 prospect I can get behind. Wisconsin getting axed is nice since he had the early run of crystal balls. He talked to Zagsblog after his list came out and said a bunch of not much:
Michigan: “I’m planning to go on a visit. [Coach Luke Yaklich] and I, we’ve been talking often, so we have a really strong relationship and they’re supporting me so it’s always good to hear from them. They had a great season, making it to the national championship. I feel like every school is recruiting me for a priority.’
Carton recently moved up to 30th on Rivals and is knocking on the door of five-star status:
Got my first live look at DJ Carton at @ny2lasports. There aren’t many better point guard prospects in the 2019 class. Strong, physical, changes speeds & has terrific vision.
When national analysts discuss potential leaders for Carton they're usually weak predictions like "could be slightly ahead of the pack," but Michigan is a constant amongst those predictions. Rivals's Eric Bossi thinks Michigan and Ohio State are edging ahead of the field; IU 247 guy says it's M, OSU, and Indiana; 24/7 national analyst Brian Snow is also in the M and OSU camp.