In the spirit of rivalry week, who doesn’t love a good hot take to add fuel to the fire before Michigan and Michigan state do battle in East Lansing this Saturday. For most of the young season, MSU has done what people thought they would do – look nearly invincible. As of late, they have come down to earth, but are still a national title front runner for a reason.
60 miles south in Ann Arbor, Michigan is a team that came into the year with hampered expectations after losing three of their best players to the NBA or graduation. Despite a gut-wrenching loss to #5 Purdue Tuesday night though, this is a team trending up with young players gaining a lot of confidence by the game. What John Beilein lacks in headline recruits, he always makes up with his greatest strength of player development, and this year is no different.
Since Beilein’s arrival in Ann Arbor in 2007, he has transformed Michigan into a perennial NCAA Tournament team, crashing 7 of 10 dances – unthinkable in the prior decade especially for a program often overshadowed by the glowing lights of the Big House. The numbers don’t lie for Tom Izzo either – 7 Final Fours in his 20+ year run as head coach for the Spartans puts him in elite company that few coaches can dream of.
These two coaches may not set off the same fireworks as Harbaugh and Dantonio, but over the past seven seasons Michigan and MSU are 7-7 in head to head matchups with Michigan winning around a game and a half less per season overall. It isn’t as if MSU has hung notably more banners in the time span either – with Michigan winning two regular season titles to MSU’s one and Michigan’s one big ten tournament title to MSU’s three. A betting man might even give the edge to Michigan in NCAA tournament success with their magical 2013 run to the national title game.
A college coach will never get a raise solely off how many players they send to the NBA, but it does make for an interesting aspect of the debate between Izzo and Beilein in terms of developing individual talent. Over the past 7 seasons, Beilein has sent 8 players to the league by way of the draft compared to Izzo’s 6. According to 247.com’s composite rankings, Michigan’s average player drafted was ranked as the 108th best player coming out of high school compared to MSU’s 44th player ranking.
It is often said that Beilein is a victim of his own success, and this can’t be denied. Judging off his pedestrian recruiting rankings, few coaches would expect to endure the attrition Beilein has experienced over the years. He recruits players that fit his system and due to his coaching staff’s incredible player development, he has sent 8 players to the draft – all but two as underclassmen.
Tom Izzo’s success cannot be denied, and no sane person would question his track record. Though recruiting rankings are incredibly subjective, recent history does show that Izzo’s players are ranked better out of high school and for various reasons stay on campus longer. This makes Coach Beilein’s nearly identical success over his tenure at Michigan even more impressive. We won’t have to wait long for these two to square off as another chapter in the storied rivalry is written this Saturday. An unlikely upset win for Michigan would only further cement John Beilein’s legacy as a coaching legend.