- The Michigan Wolverines are viewed as a top-ten team in early power rankings
- But head coach John Beilein is moving to the NBA
- Beilein led Michigan to the NCAA Tournament in eight of the last nine seasons; are they doomed without his offensive genius?
The Michigan Wolverines were expected to be one of the chief contenders for a National Championship in 2020, even though they are likely losing their top-three scorers to the pros.
But their outlook is in flux after head coach John Beilein surprisingly departed for the NBA, taking the head coaching job with the rebuilding Cleveland Cavaliers.
Their March Madness odds have only dropped slightly from +1400 to +1500 . Are those odds in line with the reality of the situation in Ann Arbor?
2020 March Madness Odds
Beilein Moves Up To NBA
There’s always a few college basketball coaches whose names are buzzing around NBA circles but Beilein’s name – at least from what major journalists were reporting – was not one of them this year.
At any rate, the 66-year-old, who has spent his entire career at the amateur level, decided he’d shoot his shot and see what he could make of the young Cleveland Cavaliers.
In many ways, he accomplished what he wanted to accomplish at Michigan. When he arrived in 2007, he was inheriting a program that hadn’t made it past the second round of the NCAA Tournament in 12 years. They’ve been a national power under him, ranked No. 7 or better in six of the last eight seasons.
Most Tournament wins since 2013
JOHN BEILEIN (18)
John Calipari (18)
Mike Krzyzewski (18)
Roy Williams (18)
— Paul Hembekides (@PaulHembo) May 13, 2019
Michigan never won the National Championship under Beilein, but they made good runs. They made it to the championship game twice, losing in 2013 and 2018. While he never won it all, he has to be at peace in light of what he accomplished with the Wolverines.
Wolverines Deemed A Powerhouse
Had Beilein returned, the Wolverines would have been among the favorites to win the National Championship in 2020. The team lost two of its top scorers – Jordan Poole and Charles Matthews – and they could lose the third, as Ignas Brazdeikis makes his decision about the NBA Draft.
— NCAA March Madness (@marchmadness) May 13, 2019
Even so, this was never a team that was built around offense, despite Beilein’s pedigree as an offensive mastermind.
Their signature in 2018-19 was defense, and with hard-nosed starters Zavier Simpson and Jon Teske back, their defensive prowess should continue. Importantly, the team’s “defensive coordinator,” Luke Yaklich, is still around (and is even in contention to take over from Beilein).
If star-to-be Isaiah Livers grows into his offensive potential, this team will be a threat.
Will They Maintain?
This is a really difficult question to answer without knowing what their solution at coach is.
For now, I’m not overly worried about recruiting. It’s true that Beilein was working tirelessly to replace their three top scorers, which included a visit to Germany to recruit Franz Wagner, but this school isn’t Duke. They don’t rely on star freshman. Part of the reason Beilein was eager to move to the pros is his distaste for recruiting.
Manuel says he has "already received a significant number of calls and a lot of interest in the potential for this position."
— Matt Charboneau (@mattcharboneau) May 13, 2019
At the same time, I am worried about whether the next head coach can do what Beilein did. He was one of the best Xs and Os coaches in the nation and always turned his teams into more than a sum of their parts.
Hire a star coach like Billy Donovan and maybe the team maintains their level of success. Opt for someone lesser-known – like Porter Moses – and recruits might start looking to jump ship.
John Beilein's message to his team after his final game as @umichbball coach?
Here it is, following the team's Sweet 16 loss to eventual national runner-up Texas Tech. pic.twitter.com/GdOmICLhE0
— Big Ten Network (@BigTenNetwork) May 13, 2019
At this point, I would take a wait-and-see approach with Michigan. They have lots of time to get this right, but absent a head coach, I would not be betting their futures to win the NCAA Tournament next season.
Let's have fun and keep it civil.