On Basketball Recruiting

Submitted by MC Hammer on April 8th, 2009 at 9:50 PM

It seems that when people are talking about Beilein's recruiting, the talk is one-and-done stars vs. "system" guys. However, a closer look at 5 of the last 6 national champions shows that they not only have talent, but experience. The schools that have all the one-and-done guys (bronxblue cited Memphis and tOSU), have fallen short. A look at the upper class talent on recent national champions:

If you look at 5 of the last 6 nat'l champions (2006 Fla the exception, there's a common theme; they had talent (high star rating out of high school, NBA potential), and experience.

2009 UNC
Green - Sr 4* projected early 2nd round
Hansbrough - Sr 5* projected late 1st round
Lawson - Jr 5* projected lottery pick
Ellington - Jr 5* projected late 1st round
Thompson - Jr 4* projected mid-late 2nd round
Frasor -Sr 4*
2008 KU
Robinson - Sr 4*
Rush - Jr 5* lottery pick
Chalmers - Jr 5* early 2nd round
Jackson - Sr 4* mid-late 2nd round
Kaun - Sr 4*
Underclass Early Entry - Arthur - lottery
2007 UF
Brewer - Jr 5* high lottery
Noah - Jr 4* lottery
Horford - Jr 4* high lottery
Green - Jr 3* mid-late 2nd round
Humphrey - Sr 3*
Richard - Sr 4*
2005 UNC
Manuel - Sr N/A
May - Jr 5* lottery
McCants - Jr 5* lottery
Felton - Jr 5* high lottery
J. Williams - Sr N/A
Underclass early entry - M. Williams - high lottery
2004 UConn
Gordon - Jr N/A high lottery
Okafor - Jr N/A high lottery
T. Brown - Sr N/A

So while having good young talent was a part of many of these teams, their backbone was veteran, pro-caliber talent. So in order to be a serious contender for a national championship, Beilein (or any coach for that matter) will have to recruit players that
a) fit his system
b) will stay 3-4 years
c) are big-time talent.

That's a tall order for any coach, but more so for Beilein who runs such an unorthodox system, both offensively and defensively. Add to that a poor track record of sending kids to the pros (which can't really be expected at the places he was at, but will be used against him by other coaches on the recruiting trail), and Beilein faces an uphill climb if he hopes to bring One Shining Moment to AA.


Blue boy johnson

April 8th, 2009 at 10:14 PM ^

The beauty of college basketball is you can with with a couple of great players and a team effort.
There is a lot of talent in Michigan, if Belien does well here recruiting he will have the talent to get to a Final Four. I am not a recruitnik but it seems reasonable to land Ziegler in 2010, maybe the big kid out of Country Day in 2011 and one of the other studs out of the 2011 class, if that happens, Michigan will have the talent, system and coach to get it done. I think is is attainable, Go Blue, Go Belien


April 8th, 2009 at 11:59 PM ^

I guess you could say OSU and Memphis have fallen short with one and done guys, but at the same time, I'm guessing most schools would be very excited to make the NCAA Finals as OSU and Memphis did with their one and doners.

Memphis really was a fairly veteran team that had made the elite 8 the previous season. They added derrick rose for one year and went to the finals.

Carmelo Anthony was a one and doner and he led Syracuse to the NC.


April 9th, 2009 at 11:57 AM ^

This is interesting analysis and I'm not saying your conclusions are incorrect, but feel the need to point out that you are committing an fundamental error in analysis. You are doing what's known as "selecting on the dependent variable."

That is, the thing you want to explain (presumably) is winning a national championship. That becomes your dependent variable. In order to do this you are choosing cases based on what you want to explain, i.e., national championship teams. But this can lead to spurious conclusions because the independent variable(s) (in this case you have an interaction between star raking of a recruit and the number of years at the school) you claim is explaining things may exist to the same degree in school NOT winning the championship. Thus, the thing you claim is the cause of the national championship may not be because a team with that kind of roster may be just as likely not to win as win. But you won't know this because you have tossed from your analysis any school that did not win.

Of course, not only are you selecting on the dependent variable, but when you find a case that doesn't support your argument (2006) you toss that one too.


April 9th, 2009 at 12:50 PM ^

Often, players on Championship teams are drafted higher than they pan out because of the fact that they were on a championship team.

I'm of the "two stars and a bunch of role players" school.


April 9th, 2009 at 12:50 PM ^

How many NBA-quality players has MSU produced in the past 11 years? Morris Peterson is a quality NBA bench guy. Anyone else? Yet Izzo has been to multple final fours, won a title, and consistently had one of the top 5-10 programs in the country.

How has he done that?
--- You need good players, no one is going to argue against that. But you don't need NBA lottery picks necessarily. You also don't need a full roster of great players - a small number will do.
--- You need players who fit your system. In MSU's case you have to be able to play defense, rebound, and fit your role. If you're going to freelance on offense, you aren't going to be a good fit. If you can't defend or rebound, you're on the bench.
--- You need guys who are going to stay for 3-4 years, making progress each year.

How is that any different than what Beilein is doing? It isn't. Sure, MSU is getting better players right now, but they've had a 10 year head start in a sense.

Michigan now has success on the court they can use with recruits. They also, for the first time next year, will have just about all of their scholarships used up. When was the last time that happened?

Things are going in the right direction and we should all be thrilled. We likely will never be UNC, or maybe even MSU, but we can be a consistent NCAA tournament team that flirts with the Elite 8 and Final Four every few years when the stars align.


April 9th, 2009 at 1:03 PM ^

I guess my concern is that not too long ago, UM was up there with UNC, Duke, and UCLA as national powers. People forget that once Dean Smith left, UNC was down (at least by their standards) until Williams showed up. I suspect that once Coach K and Izzo leave, their respective teams might take a step back. So good teams can certainly go through rough patches. I think UM is in a similar class - a program that should be very good and simply went through a dry spell under Ellerbe and Amaker. I guess I am greedy, but I don't want UM to settle for the random Elite 8 run every 10 years - I want it to consistently compete for an NC, or at the very least Big 10 titles and have decent runs in the tournament. That might be irrational, but I rather aim high and fail a little rather than adopt the "underdog" route of always wishing for the stars to align.

As for MSU not producing NBA talent, Shannon Brown has been a nice pick-up for LA, Jason Richardson was/is a dynamic scorer, Zach Randolph (when interested) can be a 20-10 guy, Charlie Bell has had a nice career, and Eric Snow has been a leader and starter on some very good teams - Philly w/ Iverson comes to mind. That might not be a murderer's row of talent, but Izzo has had some very good pro-level players over the year.


April 9th, 2009 at 12:53 PM ^

I agree with your analysis, and I take less issue with your decision to not list Florida 2006 (since many of their most prominent players came back in 2007) than some others. The goal of most teams in the NCAA is to win a championship, whether it be a conference championship or, you hope, the national title. For all of Beilein's solid credentials from WVU, his team never won the conference regular season crown, and their highest finish was 3rd place in 2005-2006. At the same time, teams like UConn, Syracuse, Villanova, and even Marquette consistently finished higher in the conference while also out-recruiting him (except maybe Marquette).

Sure, recruiting at UM will be easier than at WVU, and having a more fertile backyard certainly won't hurt. And I think some posters here feel this discussion is based on whiny alumni who are never happy, which in my case is far from the truth. I was ecstatic about this season, and I have all the faith in the world that Beilein is a great coach for this program. But not questioning a known weakness of your coach, relying instead of anecdotes and accomplishments from years past, is what led to the malaise that befell UM football the last few years of the Carr era, and I don't want to travel down that road again. I am not saying that it has or will happen in this case, and we should all give Beilein 3-4 more years before passing judgment on his recruiting process. But making it a point of discussion, providing it is not alarmist, is something all fans should be willing to at least consider.

MC Hammer

April 9th, 2009 at 2:18 PM ^

Polisci - This was not meant to be a scientific analysis. I should have made that clear. It was actually going to be a comment on bronxblue's diary but it got kind of long. I don't think a national championship team MUST have experienced 4/5 star players (2003 Syracuse, 2006 Florida), but I was just expressing that the concept that teams need guys that declare after their freshman and sophomore year isn't necessarily true.

Dudeness - I was going off draftexpress. It's too early to tell where he'll end up.

Also, this was not meant to be a criticism of Beilein. The fact is, finding ONE player with a combination of NBA talent and the willingness to stay 3 or 4 years to win a championship is very difficult. These teams (excluding 2006 UF) had up to 5 or 6.


April 9th, 2009 at 2:45 PM ^

The "Beilein's system is a handicap" argument gets thrown out a lot but I fail to see what the big deal is. Lots of teams play zone defenses. And what big-time scorer wouldn't want to play in an offense like ours, that creates excellent spacing and gives players have a green light to shoot? Yes, it can take some time for a freshman to learn his way through the system, but isn't the argument above about the need for experience in addition to talent?

Meeechigan Dan

April 9th, 2009 at 4:37 PM ^

There is one central assumption about both Rodriguez and Beilein that I don't understand: that they are locked into a system.

If we assume that both these coaches developed systems because of talent limitations, then we can also assume that they are pretty bright as well as capable of reading talent. Why on earth would they shoehorn the old system into a new, talent-rich environment?

I would expect RR and JB to, like the green microscopic growth in Andromeda Strain, divide and multiply and process the new environment and modify their systems.

That said, Beilein is not going to take any kids that aren't as pure as the driven snow, so he might not get to the talent level that RR will (or has). But if he can win with 4 guards, two freshmen who were MAC recruits and one a walk-on, he can really win big with class after class like the one coming in in 2009.

I disagree with Brian - I think he can compete every year for the Big 10 title. Once his roster is crawling with 3 and 4 year Beilein guys, the sky is the limit.