Over the past two days Michigan has locked down the services of two touted 2013 players, IN SF Zak Irvin and MI PG Derrick Walton. The two commitments just about complete Michigan's recruiting for the next three years and, with the recent additions of Nik Stauskas, Austin Hatch, and Mark Donnal to go with ever-rising Glenn Robinson III, establish a new baseline for Michigan's ceiling under Beilein.
When John Beilein arrived at Michigan he'd never acquired a player ranked in the top 100 by the diverse and sundry recruiting gurus who translate AAU performance into college projections. Despite this, he'd turned West Virginia into a consistent tourney program and run to a couple of Elite Eights.
This made him attractive to Michigan. Since the Ed Martin thing Michigan has been erring on the side of caution. Beilein's reputation as a guy who could win without even glancing at the seamier side of basketball recruiting separated him from Brian Ellerbe, who seemed to seek out kids who were neither good at basketball or life, and Tommy Amaker, who recruited decently but could not coach to save his life.
Beilein's first class lived up to that reputation:
- UR Stu Douglass: one other offer, that from WMU.
- UR Zack Novak: one other offer, that from Valpo.
- UR Ben Cronin: one other offer from WVU.
- UR Robin Benzing: German.
Cronin's hip prevented him from ever playing and Benzing ended up a point short on his standardized test. Douglass and Novak have been important contributors but are obviously limited—their rankings and offers were on target. Benzing developed into a German national team player who's consistently been mentioned as a late-first or early-second round NBA draft prospect.
This was something close the script we expected when Beilein was hired. Michigan attractiveness relative to West Virginia should produce an uptick, though. Where is our uptick?
Mid-major sorts: 3
Touted recruits: 0
Outperformers: 0 (unless you count Benzing)
- UR Blake McLimans
- UR Jordan Morgan
- #100/#137 Matt Vogrich
- ~#60 Darius Morris
Uptick achieved: Darius Morris was Beilein's first-ever consensus top-100 recruit. Beilein identified Morris early and followed him around like he was a Grateful Dead concert; Morris held Michigan to be his leader throughout his recruiting process and picked Michigan over offers from Oregon State, Washington State, and USC. He proceeded to considerably outplay his ranking en route to becoming a two-and-done.
Matt Vogrich was regarded a pure shooter and given the last slot on the Scout 100 for having the purest stroke in the country; Rivals had him at the tail end of their 150. His offer list had a number of mid-to-low-level BCS teams (Stanford, ND, Wake, GT, Colorado). If not for Morris, Vogrich would have been Beilein's highest-touted recruit ever.
The rest of the class was not so much with the uptick. McLimans took a post-grad year in an effort to draw interest and did get Boston College and Georgia Tech offers, but his ratings were decidedly mid-major. Early commit Jordan Morgan was regarded a major reach even by Morgan's father; he had no other BCS offers.
Mid-major sorts: 2
Touted recruits: 1
Outperformers: 1 (Morgan)
- #84/59/#98 Evan Smotrycz
- #93/UR/UR Tim Hardaway, Jr.
- UR Jon Horford
- UR Colton Christian
Uptick sustained, with another guy around Morris's rankings in Smotrycz. Smotrycz was a non-entity when Beilein started recruiting him and committed just before a blazing AAU season that saw him leap high up lists—at one point he was a top 50 recruit. He came back to earth a bit before final rankings came out.
Meanwhile, Tim Hardaway, Jr., was rated on par with Vogrich but is playing on a much higher level. Horford is another mid-major sort who is moving towards contributing. His only other offer was from Providence. Christian was a very late addition who was headed to Tulane before a coaching change freed him up.
Mid-major sorts: 2 (Christian, Horford)
Touted recruits: 1 (Smotrycz)
Outperformers: 1 (Hardaway)
- #81/94/142 Trey Burke
- #73/98/106 Carlton Brundidge
- UR Max Bielfeldt
- The established pattern has gone from a single touted guy to one and a half touted guys to two, with one big body to develop in the mix. Michigan snagged Burke before another rise, this one spurred by a dominant high school campaign that saw him named Ohio Mr. Basketball; if anything it seems like he's underrated.
- Brundidge committed earlier and saw his rankings drop a little bit but still remains in the 70-100 range; Bielfeldt was a very late addition Michigan managed to grab over Illinois.
- Mid-major sorts: 1
Touted recruits: 2
This is where Beilein seems to ignite:
- #46/60/55 Glenn Robinson III
- #99/100/UR Nik Stauskas
If you believe the chatter coming out of this AAU summer, Robinson is due for another move up the rankings (he's already gone from a three-star to a top 50-ish guy) and Stauskas may as well. Either way this class is two solid four-stars who fit the system while simultaneously drawing attention from NBA folks. This class does not have the project/sleeper/mid-major recruits that have featured in all his previous classes, and it seems like if it adds anyone it will be national top ten recruit Mitch McGary. (Which they probably won't, but if they don't they don't have to add a random guy for roster purposes.)
Mid-major sorts: 0
Touted recurits: 2-ish.
It's too early for anyone to have a solid grasp on where this class is going to be ranked but Beilein has acquired a full class about a month after scholarship offers could officially be issued:
- PF/C Mark Donnal is on early top 100 lists.
- SG/SF Zak Irvin had offers from IU, Purdue, and Butler; two different sources have recently talked him up as a potential top 30 player in his class.
- SG/SF Austin Hatch's story is well known.
- PG Derrick Walton was set to visit MSU this weekend, whereupon he was likely to be offered. He's on early top 100 lists as well.
Even if the Irvin chatter is optimistic it seems like this will be another class full of solid top 100 guys well below the one-and-done range. That's three straight: a trend.
- Mid-major sorts: 0
Touted recruits: 3?
Time will tell how each of these guys develop, but it's clear that Michigan has gone from picking off late sleepers to identifying and acquiring their plan A targets. When the 2013 class is on campus the only players who can plausibly be identified as backup plans or reaches will be Horford—who seems like he'll at least be useful as a senior—and Bielfeldt. Everyone else will be a guy who Beilein was after hard early.
Sometimes that doesn't work so well and you've got Jarrett Smith and Ron Coleman on your team, but Beilein's track record when it comes to unplucked gems is unparalleled. See: every player at West Virginia, Morgan, Novak, Hardaway, Smotrycz, GRIII, and even Morris and Horford. Now that he's plucking gems other schools are interested in, well… as soon as Michigan figures out its point guard spot they seem Back. For now, and for a long time.