With all the outrage and drama surrounding the Brady Hoke-Dave Brandon Michigan football debacle, it’s time we took a look at another big-time Michigan athletic team that never seems to garner national headlines, yet always seems to do things right: The Michigan basketball team. Tip-off is in a month, the team just had their first week of practice, and Coach John Beilein is putting his plans in place on how this team can reach its third straight Elite Eight. Coach Beilein is not flashy or outspoken like some of his coaching counterparts, yet come March and its inevitable madness, he always has his team ready to go.
In this day and age of the NBA, with multi-billion dollar television deals and a growing global fan base, combined with the implosion of the NFL this year, the NBA is more popular than ever. As you may have heard, LeBron is coming home, and with him he is bringing newfound intrigue to professional basketball. It’s no wonder, due to the immense popularity of this league that Michigan basketball has had multiple players leave school early for the NBA draft. In fact, in the seven seasons with Beilein at the helm, he has had seven players leave school early to enter the NBA draft. And yet every year, no matter who leaves, Beilein always seems to reload and be ready for the next year. Take the 2012-2013 season. Beilein, along with Trey Burke, the Big Ten player of the Year, and Tim Hardaway Jr., led the Wolverines to the National Championship Game. Both of those players left school early to enter the draft, and last year, the Wolverines were still one shot away from advancing to a second straight Final Four.
Drawing from Eric Dunning (Quest for Excitement: Sport and Leisure), we see that in our culture, the rise of professionalism has led to an increase in popularity in sports. According to Dunning, “sport is becoming… one of the central, if not the central, sources of identification, meaning, and gratification in our lives.” We see this with the ratings professional sports are getting these days. We also see this in college basketball, an amateur sport, which as a whole, Dunning says are also increasing in popularity. Even though more and more college athletes are leaving early for the glamour of professionalism, college basketball is still doing well. And though some coaches note that they don’t care if their players leave early for the NBA, at Michigan, John Beilein has developed the right system. Beilein continues to reload each year despite losing NBA-quality talent. This year promises to be no different. With the losses of Glen Robinson III, Mitch McGary, and star Nik Stauskas, who all were drafted to the NBA this past year, Michigan might look like they’re entering a rebuilding year. Coach Beilein, however, is great at making the most of what he has, and I think this year will be no different. Instead of looking for star recruits, Beilein looks for players that will fit his system and make the best team. This year, behind Caris Levert, Zack Irvin, Derrick Walton Jr., and Spike Albrecht, this team looks promising. Despite Dunning’s theories and the rise of professionalism and the lure of the NBA, the Michigan basketball team consistently plays at a high level, and this season should be no exception.