— Evan Daniels (@EvanDaniels) July 13, 2015
So that sucks. Michigan was hard after both Battle and similarly ranked (just outside top 10) Alabama SF Josh Langford, and Battle pulled the trigger in May when it appeared Langford was about to take that option away from him. Beilein apparently thought that decision was earnest enough that he cut off pursuit of Langford, who committed to Michigan State three days after Battle reopened his recruitment.
When you play the game of thrones… There's of course going to be a lot of Michigan fans upset at Battle, and Battle's family, and Syracuse, and the world in general.
How Michigan went from a near-guarantee of one game-changing talent to none with a richer rival isn't complicated: Beilein is operating with honesty in an environment where most everybody else is just trying to get theirs. Because of the nature of basketball—small rosters and the sure effect of pure talent—winning a guy like Battle or Langford is highly likely to substantially change your team's prospects. Once you're into the extreme edge of 17-year-old basketball ability distribution, there aren't enough humans out there to start getting picky over which ones have nice families, a firm handshake, and a head for marine engineering.
This is known. We have a "basketball recruiting is dirty like dirt in a dirt sandwich" tag for this reason. When you make a play for a guy who could make any team better, you're entering a cutthroat world where any weakness—including trust—will get exploited.
So we got Lannister'd, and it was cruel, and possibly avoidable. But before you go advocating poison (or worse, tweet at a recruit) remember that highly sought teenagers have to navigate the same sea of bullshit.
Obviously Battle was pretty serious in his interest in Michigan, since there seems to be little reason otherwise to keep the option open. Obviously Langford wasn't guaranteed to come here if Battle didn't commit, since an end to pursuit on Michigan's end was enough to push him to Izzo. Obviously if the same had happened to Izzo and Michigan was the beneficiary we'd be laughing right now.
How much do you wish this was different? The more people you meet, the more you'll realize they tend to expect everyone else to operate the way they do. Dishonest people expect dishonesty; the operating factor in "nice guys finish last" is nice guys tend to be surprised when the competition isn't so nice. Beilein has lost enough battles to Kentucky to know how the world operates outside his program, but the essence of Beilein is he's ready to trust because he's trustworthy. Sometimes this gets him burned, other times Mr. Basketball of Indiana finds it astonishingly refreshing. Take the good with the Battle.
What now? Michigan is still pursuing 2016 PG Cassius Winston, which hasn't changed, and has a scholarship offer to PG Quentin Goodin. They'll probably offer another wing now. That Beilein recognized Battle and Langford early enough to be a major player for their services speaks to a scouting ability that hasn't lost its edge. That same ability has served him well with late pickups Spike, MAAR, Dawkins, LeVert, and…
So what 3* does Beilein get drafted higher than Tyus Battle?
— guestavo (@guestavoo) July 13, 2015
I trust he'll be a good one.