Mid-Major Ceiling and Michigan

Submitted by bronxblue on April 8th, 2009 at 4:35 PM

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.

Comments

TomW09

April 8th, 2009 at 5:04 PM ^

I understand your argument and it is a well formed argument. However, I think there are simply some poor assumptions made.

First, in the first paragraph you talk about Beilein's system as a potential failing. I think this is seriously flawed. If I learned anything new about Beilein as a coach this season it was his ability to adapt his system to fit his players. Case in point: Manny Harris. Manny is the farthest thing from a "Beilein system" player. Yet, he has found such a perfect role for Manny in his system.

You also point out the 1-3-1, but really we played almost as much man defense this season as 1-3-1.

I think Beilein has shown that he is very good at fitting players into this system, regardless of the type of player they are (exception: can't shoot a lick, ala Shep).

Are we going to be contending for national titles with only 3/4 star talent? Probably not. But I think it is way to premature to say that Beilein isn't going to go after 5 star talent. Will he go after players that will be absolute one and dones? Probably not. But there are plenty of top level recruits that are 3/4 year players and I have no doubts that as Beilein grows the program that he will be going after Top 50, Top 25 recruits.

bronxblue

April 8th, 2009 at 9:08 PM ^

All good points, and I totally agree that Beilein seems capable of adapting his system to the talent around him, at least to an extent. I will say, though, that Harris was not as poor a fit for this system as you claim; Beilein's system is all about dribble-drive and kickouts for threes. Harris is one of the best at getting to the rim and setting up his teammates, and while his shot isn't perfect, he can still hit the open 3. Also note that Harris was not recruited by Beilein, and the question remains whether or not he will be able to attract such top-rated talent on his own.

As for the man-to-man/1-3-1 argument, I totally agree that he mixed the two systems well this season. My point was that the defensive scheme most commonly identified with him was designed to offset a lack of an inside presence.

My big concern with Beilein's recruiting falls on his ability to attract dominant bigs to Michigan. Guys who can shoot are pretty easy to come by, and slashers don't have to be great finishers in college to succeed. All good programs, though, have a solid presence inside, and attracting those big men has been the one consistent knock of Beilein's recruiting. I think that he will certainly seek out such players in the coming years, and I expect him to have some success on this front. I just have not seen it yet in any of his stops.

Placentasaurus

April 8th, 2009 at 5:27 PM ^

is that its pretty tough to play the 1-3-1 and have 2 legit big men on the court. 1 of them will have to play the wing or up top, and will be at a serious disadvantage because of how much ground they have to cover. I am curious to see if this cronin dude, or gibson ever plays alongside sims next year.

jamiemac

April 8th, 2009 at 5:56 PM ^

Bobby Knight would disagree that good systems cant win national titles. He did it three times with his unique motion offense.

The middle one was keyed by a future Hall of Famer, Isiah Thomas. But, the other two, not so much. Same with his final four runs in 1973 and 1992. And his numerous big ten titles in the other years, like in 1989 and 1991.

Now, RMK might very well be the greatest college hoops coach ever, BUT i firmly believe Johnny B. is among the top 10 college coaches in the game today. Knight never hauled in high end recruiting classes, but he brought in enough talent that fit his system so he could win big. Kids wanted to go to play at IU. The school, the coach, the tradition. I think kids will want to come to UM for the exact same reasons.

Folks, its been said, but I will repeat it: The loss to OU was the end of the beginning. The program is going places, with an amazing coach, doing it the right way.

Be Patient, Let It Grow.

bronxblue

April 8th, 2009 at 9:18 PM ^

I actually thought about Knight when writing this diary, since he is the poster child for a "system" winner. But as you noted, when you have Zeke manning the point, that certainly makes life easier. And he also had Steve Alford, who set the Big 10 career scoring record (since broken) once he left Bloomington. So the cupboards were certainly not bare. Also note that once he took his system to Texas Tech, his teams were decent but never particularly spectacular. Sure there was a drop-off in talent, but there was also a trend (stemming from his later years at Indiana) of diminishing returns with the motion offense, as teams found ways to handle it and the game move more toward a dribble-drive-shoot offense.

One point I want to make is that Knight's system worked best during the 70's and 80's, an era when kids stuck around for 3-4 years and the game was quite different than it is now. While I still think that his system, like JB's, can be successful to an extent, to contend for NCs you need top-notch talent up and down the roster.

jblaze

April 8th, 2009 at 5:59 PM ^

Why can't Beilein's system get players that are a notch (or say, a star rating) above our current guys? In other words, why can't we get a guy like Hansborough (4 year guy, star, NBA talent) to take over for Sims, or the equivalent guy to take over for LLP or Lee?

A full 5 of 10 guys with Harris level (meaning NBA Draft, but not necessarily lotto) talent that fit into what Beilein wants to do would make this a very dangerous team, and one capable of beating UNC.

bronxblue

April 8th, 2009 at 9:23 PM ^

I would love a team like that. I think the problem is that there are precious few such kids out there who would (a) be able to play in such a system and (b) who would buy into the all-for-one mentality that such a team would have to embody. For every UNC or MSU, where kids check their egos at the door and buy into what the coach is saying, you have a million O.J. Mayos and Memphises, where kids just want to pump up their stats on the way to the NBA. I think that Beilein certainly will have a chance at creating such a team; the jury is still out whether or not he will be able to do so.

NJWolverine

April 8th, 2009 at 8:25 PM ^

Beilein has constantly talked about the type of recruit he wants and there are some really strict standards.

1. First, shooting is everything. In my estimation, Beilein would rather have an unathletic great shooter (Vogrich) over an all American who doesn't yet have a shot. Just think of his preference for good shooters the way you would RR's preference for fast, speedy players in football.
2. He must be a good kid who's willing to learn a rather complex system. Beilein likes character guys who are very august. He certainly has no tolerance for agents, overbearing parents, posses etc...
3. He has to be an intelligent player. Look at the teams we're competing against for recruits. Northwestern, Oregon State, ie every team that runs some version of the Princeton offense. Beilein's offense is very similar and the 1-3-1 is old school. You need smart players who know how to cut and feed passes (guys like Douglass) in order for the system to work.

I'm sure Beilein would want more athletic players. But he's not going to consider anyone unless they possess the above 3 qualities. Athleticism is just extra. He pretty much concedes getting thoroughly outrebounded.

Therefore, I doubt Beilein would have recruited Harris or Sims. Harris because he didn't buy into the system until very recently (see Iowa benching). Sims because he does buy in but doesn't fit the system, though Beilein has commendably adjusted the system to fit Sims' strengths.

As far as players fitting the mold of what Beilein wants, there are probably only a few top 100 guys in the entire country who qualify. If you look at MSU's roster of mostly local players, hardly any of them fit the Beilein system. OSU's roster is also very similar. If local guys are more physical than good shooters (MSU), or one and done prima donnas (OSU), they're not even going to be considered by Beilein. Remember, the above three qualities are ENTRY REQUIREMENTS. The players must have those qualities before they set foot on campus.

bronxblue

April 8th, 2009 at 9:26 PM ^

I don't want to sound snarky, but UM is screwed if Beilein follows the requirements above when recruiting kids. Harris and Sims are far and away the two best players on this team, and this team would have been horrible without either of them this season. Beilein has shown an ability to alter his style to fit the players around him, and I hope he remains willing to do so if the right player comes along. If he has a shot at a kid like Griffin, Hansbrough, or Lucas, he better find a way to maximize their talents on this team, not turn them down because they are not a great fit for his system.

Clayzer

April 8th, 2009 at 8:26 PM ^

I'd be thrilled with a team that could consistently make the Sweet 16. Once you get there, anything can happen. There are only so many teams like North Carolina and Duke who get guys to stay 3 or 4 years. Most of the highly touted prospects want to bolt for the NBA as soon as they can (1 or 2 years, 3 max). It seems like more and more, the teams that consistantly make the final four are teams loaded with guys who leave after one or two years. We just aren't an elite program like that, and if we're going to be one it's going to take a few years. You say you don't want us to be a Memphis, but its unrealistic to expect Beilein to show up and immediately turn us into a Kansas. If it ever does happen, it's going to take some time.

bronxblue

April 8th, 2009 at 9:30 PM ^

I totally agree - I'm all about patience with this team. My concern was/is that Beilein is going to need to show the ability to recruit top kids sooner rather than later, and while Morris is a nice first step, nabbing two-three star kids who can shoot but not much else might get UM to the Sweet 16 every once and a while, but that is your ceiling. I guess I just want this team to be closer to the Fisher years than the Ellerbe years, without all the recruiting violations.

kofine05

April 8th, 2009 at 10:35 PM ^

im not sure where you are getting that jb takes shooters over athletic players. I believe that a few players transfered from Um because he was making them run so much. You have to be pretty athletic just to make the cut to be on the team.

Also it really wouldnt have mattered who the coach was at the time when manny and sims were considering colleges because they were going to go there anyways. They both grew up as huge fans of the wolverines. The school does a lot more recruiting than what people think.

mcfors

April 8th, 2009 at 11:03 PM ^

WTF is everyone worried about the "ceiling" of Michigan under Beilein? We were a 10 seed when our rotation consisted of 2 walk-ons and 3 freshmen, with not the optimal players for his system. Imagine this team with a talented PG, more depth in the frontcourt and more consistent outside shooting? I think with this system and Beilein's ability to get the most out of his players, we can often contend for the Big Ten title w/ 3 and occasional 4 star recruits. What recruit wouldn't want to come to Michigan if we become consistent winners?

bronxblue

April 9th, 2009 at 12:35 PM ^

I think you missed the point of the diary - the concern that Beilein needs to actually recruit the types of players that you listed above. You proposed a team that has more depth up front, a better PG, and some good outside shooters - which is basically UNC. But recruiting those types of players is extremely difficult, and while coaches like Williams and Coach K have shown an ability to nab those types, Beilein has not (and I fully understand those situations are not even remotely analogous). I do agree that the Michigan name does help in recruiting quite a bit, and building a consistent winner will certainly make the recruiting easier. But at the same time, if Beilein is not going to invest in 1- or 2-year players (and I agree with this mindset in general), but also wants to recruit solid big men, outside shooters, etc., he is going to be competing with some other prominent programs for a relatively small pool of players. I think the jury is still out whether or not he will be able to consistently compete for these types of players.

mcfors

April 9th, 2009 at 4:24 PM ^

I must have misread your initial post. What I took from it was "Beilein has never recruited stars in the past at his other coaching stops, so he can't do it here, and without those players, Michigan will be limited."

I think it's too early to discern what kind of players he can recruit. Sure, he's no John Calipari, but why can't he get the same players Bill Freider or Tommy Amaker got? How do we know he's opposed to one-and-done's? His only full recruiting class of last year's came after a 10-22 season, why would you want to spend 1 year on a rebuilding team? I think the quote you took from Brian is spot on, after all the shit we've been through, having a coach like Beilein is wonderful. It is ridiculous to expect a national championship in the very near future.

imafreak1

April 9th, 2009 at 2:18 PM ^

just FYI, your logic is obvious or circular and you carefully selected your data to prove your point. Also, your conclusions are based on faulty assumptions.

I will take each point one by one.

Obvious. Good teams have good players (duh). Big elite schools get more big elite players (double duh). Which leads into the second point.

Circular logic. I have selected some teams that never made the Final Four. Aha, none of these teams have made the Final Four. What's more, these teams that win and are elite also have elite players! You say these teams are all Mid Majors but they are not. Which leads into the second point.

Selective use of data. You have not selected only mid majors or even considered all mid majors. If the A-10, who gives us Xavier, is a mid major then please to explain UMass, John Calipari, and Marcus Camby. Somewhere on the Kentucky internet do you thinks dudes are writing "Calipari has mid major disease he can't make Final Fours!" (?) (!)WVU is not a mid major and we're back to the circular logic--because they haven't done something yet ipso facto they cannot. How about Villanova. Small school with no reason to be good at basketball, big bad conference. They do just fine. How are they not WVU with a few extra wins? Which brings up the next point.

Faulty assumptions. The fact that Beilein has not made a Final Four in a limited time frame, at lesser programs, does not mean he cannot. Also, it is wrong to assume that Beilein will do things exactly the same way at Michigan as he did at Canisius. He will sign the best players he can sign. Period.

I also think this idea that Beilein's system can't win in the tourney is not supported by an data. It is actually contraindicated. He has won in the tourney. He has beat top teams. All available research suggests good guard play is more important to a deep tourney run than a big man. (But I can't forget Patrick Ewing!!!!) (Seriously, remember Patrick Ewing and how he... lost to... Villan...) And that's accepting the absurd assumption that Beilein doesn't want a big man.

Have a great day.

bronxblue

April 9th, 2009 at 7:23 PM ^

I'm having a great day. Clearly you have been quite busy. But since you went to such great effort to nitpick my arguments, here are some counterpoints following the same process you did above.

Obvious. Good teams have good players (duh). Big elite schools get more big elite players (double duh). Which leads into the second point. - No argument there. Good teams tend to have good players, but to an extent a good system can overcome a deficiency in talent.

Circular logic. I have selected some teams that never made the Final Four. Aha, none of these teams have made the Final Four. What's more, these teams that win and are elite also have elite players! You say these teams are all Mid Majors but they are not. Which leads into the second point. - Ah yes, the famed "you didn't mention everyone who has ever played basketball, and I presumed you meant everyone when you made a non-blanket statement" argument. I actually mentioned one team that did make the Final Four (George Mason) that won because they had a clear style, experienced players, and a system that compensated for the lack of a big-time player. But don't worry about that caveat, because you are clearly on a role. Also, your argument of circular logic doesn't really hold up here because I never said it was a truism that all Mid-major teams fail to make the Final Four (see: George Mason). Instead, I was simply pointing out a few prominent cases of a trend. I never presumed the fact that all Mid-Majors never make it to the Final Four.

Selective use of data. You have not selected only mid majors or even considered all mid majors. If the A-10, who gives us Xavier, is a mid major then please to explain UMass, John Calipari, and Marcus Camby. Somewhere on the Kentucky internet do you thinks dudes are writing "Calipari has mid major disease he can't make Final Fours!" (?) (!)WVU is not a mid major and we're back to the circular logic--because they haven't done something yet ipso facto they cannot. How about Villanova. Small school with no reason to be good at basketball, big bad conference. They do just fine. How are they not WVU with a few extra wins? Which brings up the next point. - See my argument above about not listing every team that has ever played NCAA hoops. As for UMass, you actually proved my point that you need elite players to compete for an NC. Camby was the POTY in 95-96, drafted #2 in the NBA draft, was NBA Defensive player of the year in 2006-7, and a consistent member of the all-defense team. That Final Four team also had Lou Roe, who was drafted in the first round by the Pistons that year. So that team had a fair bit of talent. And I'll even go a step further - when St. Joe's had that magical run a few years ago, it was because it had two NBA talents on the roster - West and Nelson. Since that time, though, they haven't been much of a factor nationally because, oh yeah, they haven't had any NBA-quality talent. The coach and system have remained the same; the players running it have simply been worse than before.

But getting back to Umass. Remember who they lost to? Oh yeah, Kentucky, a team with 7 future NBA players. They were, in effect, out-talented by Kentucky and lost in the Final Four. But please, overlook that fact, as you are still doing great.

As for WVU not being a mid-major, I actually said "though they come from a major conference, they would never have succeeded in the Big East simply trying to out-recruit other teams." But lets continue forward. Villanova isn't some no-name school in the middle of nowhere. It won an NCAA title in 1985, and has been a consistent winner throughout the years. It is also located smack dab in the middle of Philadelphia, a major city with a large quantity of available talent and national exposure. By comparison, WVU is located in a small state with no major city, has far less illustrious past, lacks much in the way of little local talent, and limited national exposure. WVU was good for a few years under Beilein, but before then was never a major player nationally or in conference consistently.

Also, I never said that teams couldn't compete because they have a small enrollment. We are talking about recruiting kids, not drawing from the general student body. Hell, 'Nova and Duke have about the same number of students (Duke a little higher because of more grad students), but both are very competitive with "big bad" state schools. Size of the school was never one of my arguments; mindset of the coaches and how they recruit, though, was.

Faulty assumptions. The fact that Beilein has not made a Final Four in a limited time frame, at lesser programs, does not mean he cannot. Also, it is wrong to assume that Beilein will do things exactly the same way at Michigan as he did at Canisius. He will sign the best players he can sign. Period. - I never said that Beilein himself could not make the Final Four at Michigan, or that he would run the program the same way at Michigan as he did at Canisus. Hell, he didn't run the same exact at system at WVU as he did at Canisus. Beilein is a system guy, though. That's what he is known for - many have noted that he has never been a great recruiter, but that he maximizes the talent around him with the system he runs. But to compete for NCs and even Final Fours, you need top-notch talent, talent that Beilein has never been able to recruit before. And as you noted above with UMass and I did with St. Joes, small teams in the middle of nowhere are not precluded from recruiting top talent. And for an example of circular logic, "He will sign the best players he can sign" is pretty textbook.

I also think this idea that Beilein's system can't win in the tourney is not supported by an data. It is actually contraindicated. He has won in the tourney. He has beat top teams. - Now you are just making stuff up. I said that Beilein's teams were very good in the NCAA tournament, but they all hit a ceiling. Gonzaga, Crieghton, Xavier, etc. all made decent runs into the tournament, but none got past the Elite 8 (and they rarely even got that far). Over that same stretch, UNC, Duke, UCLA, Memphis, UConn, MSU, UF, etc. have all made multiple runs to the Final Four and/or won championships. Now, I severely doubt that those coaches ran systems more successful or creative than JB's; they simply had BETTER players to use. That goes to recruiting.

All available research suggests good guard play is more important to a deep tourney run than a big man. - link? Oh yeah, that would require actually, you know, "data" instead of baseless assumptions. Guard play is important to any team, but that's like saying "you need to be able to stop the other team from scoring in order to win." Having good players at all positions gives you the best chance to win.

But looking at the teams that have made consistent runs in the tournament, you see a strong trend of solid inside play. UNC was buoyed by Hansbrough up front this year, Kansas won because Darrell Arthur played well inside, UF won both years because of guys like Noah and Horford, etc. Sure, they also had great guard play, but to say that data proves "good guard" play is more important than having bigs is ludicrous. Having a good backcourt with little inside is as bad as having a beast inside and nothing outside - you are one-dimensional and a team that can exploit this weakness will beat you, system be damned.

(But I can't forget Patrick Ewing!!!!) (Seriously, remember Patrick Ewing and how he... lost to... Villan...) - Patrick Ewing won a title in 83-84, and may have won 2 more had Fred Brown not thrown away the ball to James Worthy and Villanova did not shoot freaking 79% from the field (and even then, they only lost by 2 points). So 1 championship, plus 2 more final game appearances decided by a total of 3 points. So, um, yeah - good argument by you.

And that's accepting the absurd assumption that Beilein doesn't want a big man. - I'm getting tired of shooting down your completely unfounded accusations, so I will leave it that I never suggested Beilein didn't want big men - the jury is still out, though, whether or not he will be able to attract them consistently. Big guys who can rebound and defend inside are tough to come by, and tend to take some time to mature. JB has never really had that type of player wherever he coached, so I think it is fine to wonder how he would do (a) in recruiting one, and (b) in utilizing such a player in his system.

Have a great day. - Ditto!

Tater

April 10th, 2009 at 12:10 AM ^

The IU team that beat UM three times that season and went undefeated had Scott May, Kent Benson, and Quinn Buckner, who were all top-flight college players and NBA draftees. Role players Abernathy and Wilkerson weren't bad, either, though not good enough to make me remember their first names.

Beilein will get better talent in. UM has been at a terrible recruiting disadvantage for the last ten years. Now that the Ed Martin/Chris Webber stench is gone, it should be easier to get three and four star talent to UM, with the occasional five star.

I really think they can get by with two or three great players and a bunch of role players to compliment them. As Brian posted, they are beginning to get taller, too. UM got pushed around and jumped over waaaay too much this year. And remember that the 1989 UM team had seven players listed at 6-9 or taller.

More height, more weight, and more strength: that is all UM needs. It might not happen as soon as many of us want it to, but it will happen.

bronxblue

April 10th, 2009 at 11:29 AM ^

Now, I totally agree with that assessment. UNC this year was an aberration in that they had 6-7 guys who will play in the NBA someday. Most championship teams usually have 2-3 guys who will at least get a chance in the NBA plus a number of solid role players. I actually think UM will be closer to this ideal than some may think from my post; guards will not be that hard to find, and I think that a style of big man who can shoot the 18-20 footer with some consistency and who can still play inside defensively (think Suton and Hansbrough this year) will be viable targets to Beilein. With some bangers, they should be a little tougher defensively and won't be intimidated as much. Of course, Manny actually getting a foul call after being tackled on the way to the rim might also help in the confidence/physicality department. I like the future of this team much more than under Amaker, and part of the reason is that people gave a bit too much credit to Amaker for his recruiting prowess. UM is a good program with a transcendent name in sports; there will always be a set of kids who will consider playing for the school no matter how good or bad it might be that year. Amaker was certainly a good recruiter (though he sometimes was blinded by talent instead of also considering character), but being a representative of UM certainly didn't hurt either. Beilein should (and probably already has) seen an uptick in the types of recruits who will talk to him, and I fully expect this trend to continue.

riverrat

April 10th, 2009 at 11:29 AM ^

...but I wonder about the equation that five star always equals one and done...

I guess I'm thinking of Lawson and Hansborough... Lawson in particular was told he wasn't ready by NBA scouts (from what I hear, of course - I'm not claiming God-like powers to read his mind or anything), and used that as incentive to come back. I might be crazy, but I believe that the NBA is becoming more of a basketball league in some ways (as opposed to a 'watch the star dribble and chuck up a horrible, ridiculous shot that goes in 40 percent of the time league), and Beilein's ability to help his players develop their skills will mean more NBA dollars.

I, of course, have been delusional before...

M-Dog

April 10th, 2009 at 10:30 PM ^

is all about dribble-drive and kickouts for threes" ?

Um, no it's not.

It's about perimeter passes to get an open look (preferrably 3's) and back door cuts to keep 'em honest. It's a "European" outside-in system versus an "American" inside-out system.

Hence the recruiting ceiling. It's not a star maker system. It's not a "cool" system. I've read quotes about recruits derisevly calling it a Princeton system . . . a system to give small slow guys a chance.

Today we do have a lot of small slow guys, so yea its a good system for now. If over time JB is not viewed as a cut-and-dried system guy, he'll get top recruits because of who and where Michigan is. But if he's viewed as wedded to a "Princeton" system no matter what, that's the kind of recruits he's going to get.

rdlwolverine

April 15th, 2009 at 11:06 AM ^

As someone who is old enough to have seen the 1976 Indiana team play in person 4 times, there has been some serious underestimation of the talent that Bob Knight had at Indiana. Although their NBA careers did not match their college achievements, all 5 starters played at least 5 years in the NBA. The 1976 team had the 2nd (May, NBA all-rookie team), 7th (Buckner, 2nd team NBA all-defense 4 times) and 11th players (Wilkerson) taken in the 1976 draft and the 1st player taken in the 1977 draft (Benson). The fifth starter was a 3rd round pick and played 5 years in the NBA (Abernethy). In addition, freshman reserve Wayne Radford played in the NBA. (The top 7 on the 1975 team all made the NBA - Steve Green and John Laskowski plus the starters on the 1976 team). Larry Bird would have been a sophomore on the 1976 team if he hadn't quit the team the previous year.