The basketball team and playing with house money

Submitted by Erik_in_Dayton on February 23rd, 2012 at 12:05 PM

Brian and others have said several times that the men's team is playing with house money this year and that it is a year to be purely enjoyed - no angst merited.  I agree completely, but a long-time poster yesterday said that that is not a common view.  I don't know if he's right or not, but with the hope of helping other people to see that everything this team does from here on out is gravy - and just to celebrate the team - I decided to take a look at the next-best offers received by each player  while they were being recruited and post a list of those offers.  I think the list below speaks for itself as far as how much this team has exceeded expectations.

Quick notes:  I defined the "next-best" offer as the non-Michigan offer that came from the school that has experienced the most success recently.  I used Scout, Rivals, and UMHoops to gather the information.  You'll notice that I sometimes listed more than one school when I wasn't sure what school was the best of the non-Michigan bunch.  Finally, I put Big Ten offers in bold. 

Burke - Penn St./Iowa

Douglass - Western Michigan

Hardaway - Minnesota

Novak - Valparaiso (offer pulled at one point)

Morgan - Xavier

Smotrycz - Northwestern (would probably have received better offers if he had extended his recruitment)

Vogrich - NW, Stanford, Baylor, Ga. Tech, Wake Forest, Notre Dame

Horford - Providence

McLimans - Ga. Tech/Boston College

Brundidge - MSU

Biefeldt - Illinois

Christian - Penn St./Cal

I said that the list speaks for itself, but I can't resist:  Michigan is competing for a Big Ten title with a team that looked in high school like they might be a nice haul at Northwestern or one of the better teams in the Atlantic Ten.  The fact that the best non-Michigan offers on the team belonged to Brundidge and Bielfeldt makes the team's performance all the more remarkable.





February 23rd, 2012 at 12:19 PM ^

Recruiting seems to have a disproportionate impact on the success of a college basketball team, even moreso than other sports, since the young players can have a huge impact right away, whereas in football for example, players more often have a few years of coaching/condititioning before getting playing time.  That said, I love that we have coaches that can coach first, and are building their recruiting chops based on on-court success and trust.  The game against memphis early in the year just said so much about this team and this staff.  The difference was on display.  I'm excited to see what is going to happen when Beilien has a roster as athletic as most of the teams he consistently beats. 


February 23rd, 2012 at 12:19 PM ^

house money comment.  It seems to me that it is an issue of exceeding expectations (or not).  For me, there is much more that goes into expectations than offer sheets.  Prior to Morris leaving, most thought that UM would contend for the title.  For me, replacing a sophmore with a freshman plus adding 2 more players, kept the expectations pretty much at the same level.  I think people who aren't really into basketball all that much are more surprised with this team's success than those of us who follow it closely (even when we haven't been very good).


February 23rd, 2012 at 12:34 PM ^

I think any reasonable fan (an oxymoron perhaps) would've looked at Michigan preseason and thought we'd be in the hunt for the conference title, but we were probably a longshot at best.  To be three games from the end of the season and to have a REALLY good chance of finishing with a share of the Big 10 is just so far beyond what I was hoping for back in October....this is just great!  This coupled with the facility upgrades, coupled with the uptick in is going to be a lot of fun in Ann Arbor for a long time to come.


February 23rd, 2012 at 12:48 PM ^

Smotrycz blew up pretty late, but ended up being a top 50 guy.  Characterizing him by a NW offer is a little disingenuous given that had he not already been signed to Michigan, a lot of high profile programs would have been interested.  There was buzz that UNC was attempting to make a late push for him.  Credit that one a recruiting win for Beilein's uncanny foresight, beating most other D1 coaches to the punch by a couple of months.


February 23rd, 2012 at 12:49 PM ^

     "House Money" and "Expectations" are all pretty subjective terms, and frankly I think the team would laugh at your suggestion.  This is Zack Novak's last chance to win a big ten title.  Its his last chance to hang a final four banner.  This is anything but a "gravy" season.

     The difference is that we want those things for THEM.  Not for us.  Because they deserve it.  Really, that is probably how we should look at the next season too.  And the one after that.  We are not ENTITLED to a great basketball program.  Isn't it great that we have one anyway? 


February 23rd, 2012 at 1:02 PM ^

I was being selfish in trying to celebrate the team's rise from being a bunch of relatively obscure recruits to a Big Ten title contender.  I'm glad you set me straight.  I see now what a bastard I was. 

 In all seriousness: What the hell are you talking about? How did you get that response from my post? You might as well have written, "What about the starving children in Africa?  Aren't they more important than basketball? AREN'T THEY?!"


February 23rd, 2012 at 1:16 PM ^

     I like your post, and yes they are overachievers, I just dont like the "We are entitled to an elite team" concept.  Which was admittedly barely mentioned in your post.  I'm just thinking back to that @OSU gamethread when people were dogging Zack and Stu, saying this will all be a bad memory when we get the "good" players in...

     And sometimes I just want to shake people and tell them what an ungreatful piece of shit they are.  And you're right, this was totally out of place considering your relatively positive and informative post.  It just sent my brain in that direction.  Sorry man. 


February 23rd, 2012 at 1:21 PM ^

I appreciate that.  I'm also with you that the idea of being entitled to an elite team (however you define that) is absurd.  I think people are crazy for dogging Douglass and Novak.  They are two of the most appreciation-worthy basketball players that I've seen play for Michigan in my almost 25 years of watching the team. 


February 23rd, 2012 at 12:51 PM ^

The "house money" comment, aside from exceeding expectations, could also be related to the number of close games and comebacks that this team has won.  I think it's mostly due to senior leadership, but they do have a knack for playing poorly for long stretches and doing just enough to eek out a win (see two OT wins against Northwestern for example).


February 23rd, 2012 at 1:00 PM ^

I think Brian's right. M is notably short on both scorers and rebounders. Its one true scorer (Hardaway) is inconsistent. And it's not as if M is deadly from behind the arc. 

But the team gets it done thanks to great coaching, defense, conditioning, and leadership. This season echoes last season in terms of growth; both teams steadily improved as the season progressed. And, despite the whole "finesse" rep, this team is hard-nosed. The defense against OSU was relentless. M tends to win the close games; even when the team loses, it never lays down.

Every time they take the court, I think "They're just a bunch of slow, skinny, baby-faces flipping the ball around the perimeter." Then they prove me wrong.


February 23rd, 2012 at 1:10 PM ^

the house money comment rankled for me--and I expect might the players--in suggesting that these guys are just place-holders. Scr*w that--they're my school, my school IS the house, and they're playing to win! I'll cry when they lose if I want to. 


February 23rd, 2012 at 1:14 PM ^

Novak and Stu rightfully deserve all the praise they are getting but the #1 reason we are in this position in my mind is Trey Burke. I shudder to think if he got hurt who I would trust running the point in a similar manner and the fact is that there is no one that can do it. To think before the season started that a true freshman (3* with not much hype) to immediately step in and equally fill DMo's shoes and possibly surpass him by tourney time and I would have kinda laughed. He is so icey down the stretch and knows how to finish a game. Use that Minny game last night as an example and everyone on that team didn't know what to do down the stretch to win the game. Bottom line for me is that everything else is not gravy and we have a dam good team. We have an excellent chance to win out and make a nice run in the tourney with the talent to do it. It is in front of us and let's aggressively take it and not be satisfied with anything but lofty goals.


February 23rd, 2012 at 1:18 PM ^

I hear what you're saying, and I asked the following with no snark:  Don't you think that different mind-sets are appropriate for the team and the fans?  I can't imagine that the team is already happy with the season, but we as fans don't play in the games (obviously), so we can afford to allow ourselves the happiness of already having as many wins as last year, can't we?


February 23rd, 2012 at 1:28 PM ^

the ultimate goal is to win big ten titles, hang banners, and make deep runs in the tourney. Regardless of where people think we should be we are in a great position to at least share a big ten title. Our recruiting class coming in is very good and Coach B is trying to build something for the long haul. I ain't deferring anything to Sparty as they have a tough game @ assembly and vs O$U. Let's win out and get this program rolling where we should be nationally.

coastal blue

February 23rd, 2012 at 5:17 PM ^


The team will always have higher expectations than most fans. 

All our fans were happy with 11-2 in football and a BCS win. I'm sure the players were happy with those results, but were just as disappointed they didn't win a Big Ten title. 

Same for basketball. If we don't win the conference, as a fan, you can't be too upset because the general ceiling for this team after Morris left and then Horford got hurt was probably just making the tournament as a lower-seed. The players, however, will look at it as a lost opportunity as they came so close to that Big Ten title. 



February 23rd, 2012 at 1:58 PM ^

Coach B is the difference-maker on this team. Of, course he will modestly state that he doesn't shoot the shots, pull-down the rebounds, or make the assists and steals. But what he has done is mold the various talents he recruited into a cohesive unit which can compete at the highest level of college basketball. We're about to see what kind of tournament coach he is. It will be nerve-wracking but a lot of fun.


February 23rd, 2012 at 1:58 PM ^

Beilein recruits always turn up better than people thought.

He had to scrape together this years seniors class- and all the classes since have been full of guys who always have risen with regards to ranking as recruiting has gone on.  Even next years class with top 100 talent has been the same as GR has been a huge riser!

Even with top recruits being the new norm thehy still are rising- great to see how he knows both what types of players he needs and which players are being overlooked/under-recruited so he can swoop in and get them before they blow up

Blue boy johnson

February 23rd, 2012 at 2:27 PM ^

House money or not, this team is setting a standard that next years team is unlikely to match. I am becoming more convinced everyday that the loss of Douglass and Novak is going to be much tougher to overcome than generally anticipated. These two not only provided phenomenal leadership, they also make big plays, and play very good defense.

If I were a betting man, I would take the under on next years team matching this years team for BIG conference wins.


February 23rd, 2012 at 3:09 PM ^

Well, the team has a chance to go 14-4 in the Big Ten, and that's an extraordinary record that any team would have difficulty matching or besting. Since the Big Ten began playing 18 conference games in the 1974-75 season, these are Michigan's top years in terms of Big Ten wins:

  • 1976-77: 16-2 (1st place)
  • 1984-85: 16-2 (1st)
  • 1992-93: 15-3 (2nd)
  • 1975-76: 14-4 (2nd)
  • 1985-86: 14-4 (1st)
  • 1987-88: 13-5 (2nd)
  • 1993-94: 13-5 (2nd)
  • 1974-75: 12-6 (2nd)
  • 1988-89: 12-6 (3rd)
  • 1989-90: 12-6 (3rd)


February 23rd, 2012 at 2:30 PM ^

It really puts things in perspective when we get upset over being turned down by "big name" recruits. Obviously we want the highly-rated guys, but this is proof that the panic button doesn't always need to be pushed in the recruiting wars.


February 23rd, 2012 at 2:47 PM ^

At the start of this year, I knew we'd make the Tourney, but hopefully not on Bubble watch. I figured we could maybe win an NCAA game depending on the matchups. But I don't think there's a single person out there who expected us to finish 1st or 2nd in the Big Ten, or be a team that has a legit shot to make a deep March run. So yeah, for me they're playing with House Money


February 23rd, 2012 at 8:59 PM ^

i thought this team had a great shot at 2nd in the BIG and i was hoping for a sweet 16 finish.  to be fair, this was after all the raving reviews i heard about burke prior to the start of the season.

i pegged osu at 15-3; Wisky 13-5; UM 12-6; Sparty 11-5...

i really thought UM had the #2 team in the BIG, figuring the loss of morris would be compensated by improved play by hardaway, smot, morgan, etc.  however, i figured another team would surprise, so i went with wisky.  i guess sparty has been that team this year. 


February 23rd, 2012 at 4:05 PM ^

B1G title.  With 3 games to go, we are 1 game out of first.  That is competing for a big ten title.

As I have also stated before, people tend to put too much emphasis on talent.  I want for us to get as good as talent as we can, but that alone does not make a good team.  Look at last years MSU team, very talented, but they didn't play well.  UM's team last year and this year have good chemistry, they play TEAM offense and defense, play hard and have good leadership.  With that formula, you can beat more talented teams.

Our teams going forward will be more talented, but will they be as successful?  They will IF they play hard and play together.  With Beilein at the helm, I think that they will.


February 23rd, 2012 at 7:39 PM ^

You make a good point about Talent being over emphasized.  Not that it means nothing beacause at the end of the day you want the most talented people possible.  However, Butler making 2 straight National Championship appearances wasn't due to them being the most talented team (yes, they had a few guys who could play ball pretty damn well!).  Upperclassmen and leadership, experience, "young talent", great coaching, GRIT! etc. etc. all factor in and add up to equally or greater than any "talent" driven team.  I've stated before, and I think many are starting to sense it, we as fans and the team are going to miss those seniors more than we know right now; and it has nothing to do with how naturally gifted at basketball they are.


February 23rd, 2012 at 4:17 PM ^

I don't agree with this sentiment, and I suspect Brian would not say this about hockey (which he seems to follow more closely than he does basketball).  If you don't really follow basketball, then of course everything is "gravy."  I feel that way about hockey - if they win, great; if they lose, I don't care enough to feel bad.

This is Novak and Douglass's senior year.  Those two have been fantastic leaders and I really want them to end their careers with a Big Ten title and good run in the tourney.  And given that we haven't won a Big Ten title in 26 years, we need to strike while the iron is hot. 



February 23rd, 2012 at 4:38 PM ^

First, the approach that espouse in my post is somewhat aspirational.  I almost turned to a guy in a sports bar during the NW game and told him to shut the f*ck up because he was obviously a g--damn alcoholic and I didn't need him yammering in my ear during a game...This would not have been a proud moment.

I also really want this team to end things with a good tournament run, but (if the better angles of my nature win out) I'm not going to feel bad about things if they don't...A better way to put it, maybe, is that I won't be disappointed.   This team has already well-exceeded any reasonable expectations (IMO). 

As I said in a response to another post, the team does not need us as fans (unless we're at a game, where we can influence the outcome somewhat by making noise) to be as determined to keep winning as the players on the team need to be.  My mindset, while I'm watching in TV, is irrelevant to the outcome. 


February 23rd, 2012 at 4:56 PM ^

If it's not an issue of caring, I think it may be that some suffer from an inferiority complex regarding the program.  We're not some podunk program that can't ever hope to succeed.  We went to the Final Four six times between 1964 and 1993.  What we are doing this year is return to where we were for many years before the "Lost Decade".

This year has been enjoyable but it hasn't come out of the blue like last year's did.  This team was ranked in the preseason top 25, and it's been ranked every single week.  It has performed the way you'd expect from a ranked team.  If we fail to capitalize on this chance to win the Big Ten, and/or fail to advance further in the tournament than we did in 2009 and 2011, that will be a bitter pill to swallow. 


February 23rd, 2012 at 5:06 PM ^

I think a lot of it comes down to what you thought of the pre-season rankings.  I don't follow non-Big-Ten basketball closely, but I had to believe that Michigan minus Morris was a team that would struggle to make the tournament.  He meant so much to them last year, and we didn't have a lot of reason to expect Burke to do what he's done...In other words, I thought Michigan was probably really overrated at the beginning of the year.


February 23rd, 2012 at 4:38 PM ^

jfc i feel like i am under Churchill and rocking the appeasment process. Who cares what is going on with the other douchers. We won at Purdue and have them coming into our undeafeated barn so lets win this shit. Illini is imploding just stay focused and do work. At PSU to get a slice of the title they are bringing the A game on senior night but whatever. State looked like shit at Minny and should have lost if not for a brain dead foul with 3 left on teh shot. It's our banner and let's go get it.


February 23rd, 2012 at 4:49 PM ^

You're not on the team, are you?  I'm also guessing that you're not a world leader facing the rise of a genocidal, industrialized state with expansionist ambitions (I hope that you will warn us if I am wrong in my assumption). We're fans - what's in the back of our heads during a game is not going to affect its outcome. 


February 23rd, 2012 at 5:00 PM ^

As a fan is matters a lot what is in the back of your head. Why only two teams are undeafeated in the B1G at home this year and we are one of them. The Maize Rage got such incredible exposoure during the O$U weekend it cannot be verbalized as it obv got us some phenom commits. Never underestimate how is does look as football recruits are always on watch



February 23rd, 2012 at 5:11 PM ^

I agree with the view that we should just enjoy whatever is left.  This team beat Sparty and Ohio, and still has a chance to win the regular season title.  Also, as much parity as we are seeing at the higher levels of the B1G, any of five teams, including Michigan, could win the B1G Tournament.  

I honestly never expected them to contend for a title.  My "best case scenario" was for Burke to take his lumps early, for MIchigan to gel in the second half of the season, and for a good enough seed to make it to the second weekend in the NCAA Tournament.  

I am one of those who usually overestimates the abilities of any team in maize and blue, and they have even exceeded my expectations.  I'm with the "everything else is gravy" crew on this one.  

It's already been a very good season.

Ty Butterfield

February 23rd, 2012 at 5:13 PM ^

I would agree that at this point the basketball team is playing with "house money." I am sure there are people that may have predicted the basketball team would have a great season. HOWEVA, after losing Darius I had no idea how the team would perform and I was just hoping the would be able to sneak into the tournament. I am someone who usually has a negative outlook on things so it is what it is. I am so excited about the talent that is coming in next year and I think that this high profile recruiting class will certainly raise expectations. I am also wondering how the loss of Douglass and Novak is going to affect the team. These guys are great leaders and are the heart and soul of this team. These are problems for next season. Right now just sit back and enjoy the ride.