John Beilein is the 2012 NCAA basketball coach of the year. This is an irrefutable fact regardless of what the media would have you believe. Sunday saw Michigan beat hapless Penn State and Ohio (State) overcome a 13-point deficit to beat Michigan State. These events gave Michigan a share of its first Big Ten title since I was more concerned with nap time than sports (1986 to be precise). After the birth of my daughter that ratio is sure to revert to its original state, but I digress. This is Michigan’s first legit non-NIT banner since the championship in 1989. It has been a long, long way back from college basketball purgatory. I certainly don’t mean to imply that Michigan was unfairly punished. The improper benefits were blatant and silly, but the piper has been paid and thanks to Coach Beilein we can finally move on. For much of my life, watching Michigan basketball has been like watching JaVale McGee try to dunk from the foul line. But why, I’m pretending you ask, does Beilein deserve the honor of Coach of the Year? It it because Michigan’s roster can be summed up thusly:
More after the jump…
This is a bit of a backhanded compliment to the Wolverines’ roster, but no coach has done more with less than Beilein. Michigan’s senior co-captains are Stu Douglass and the above Zack Novak. Douglass had no scholarship offers out of high school and was prepared to play for recently fired Michigan coach Tommy Amaker at Harvard when John Beilein came through with an offer to play Big Ten ball. Novak was all set to play for Valparaiso until the Crusaders withdrew their scholarship offer. He was contemplating life without basketball when again Beilein came calling. Both were deadly shooters, but only Beilein saw potential beyond that. Four years later, they are the glue that holds the Wolverines together. Freshman point guard Trey Burke is without a doubt the most important player on the team, but the two seniors are close behind, and Burke himself was only a three-star prospect out of Columbus who was ignored by his hometown Buckeyes.
It is Beilein’s eye for talent and ability to coach up that talent that has brought Michigan its best non-cheating team in over 20 years. These overlooked players have brought something to Crisler
Arena Center that neither the 1989 national championship team nor the Fab Five brought: a Big Ten banner. I’ve been waiting my entire life for Michigan to have one of those over-achieving players whom opponents hate because he looks like he should be in business school rather than on the basketball court, and Zack Novak is my official hero for obliging me. In fact he so fits the bill that he actually is in business school. He’s the ultimate hustle guy. He’s played his entire career at the 4 position despite being only 6’4″, and he recently became the 28th Wolverine to notch 1000 points and 500 rebounds for his career. Douglass, meanwhile, has never missed a game in his career (over 100 consecutive appearances), is one of the league’s best perimeter defenders, and is a major factor in Burke’s success with his mentoring. In fact, Beilein’s coaching job is so outstanding that Grantland’s Mark Titus, a former Ohio (State) basketball player, is leading the campaign for Beilein.
Tom Izzo, who was actually given the award, did another fine job up in East Lansing, but his team had better talent than Michigan at every position on the court except point guard. Same goes for the other co-champion, Thad Matta and Ohio (State). Put Novak, Douglass, Morgan, Smotrycz, and even Hardaway on either of those teams and they are roll players at best. Instead, when Beilein was trying to rebuild what was essentially a dead program, he couldn’t get big name recruits so he had to rely on finding diamonds in the rough and getting every bit he could out of them. Three teams tied for the Big Ten title, and in this case the tie should go to the guy bringing a sword to a gunfight. As recruits take notice, that sword will be gun before long.