|John Beilein is working on a Michigan team that will contend for years. (Getty Images)|
ANN ARBOR, Mich. -- All the talk is about his system, getting his players into the program and how then, just like was the case back at West Virginia a few years ago, John Beilein would be dangerous.
This Michigan team won't intimidate too many people, not with 6-foot-4 (and that may be a stretch) Zack Novak still spending time at the power forward spot and an unheralded and unintimidating freshman point guard ready to have the ball in his hands.
But that's about to change.
This year's Wolverines earned a preseason ranking due to their late-season success a year ago -- and the fact that they lost just one player, Darius Morris.
Morris was a critical piece, a big point guard who bolted for the NBA.
But it's not about the names with Beilein -- and that's why Michigan begins the season in the Top 25.
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That may be about to change, though.
Beilein, on Thursday afternoon, landed the biggest prize of his lengthy coaching career -- both literally and figuratively.
Mitch McGary committed to Michigan.
The 6-foot-10 McGary is Tyler Hansbrough-like big man who hails from the Midwest and chose Beilein over Coach K, Roy Williams and John Calipari.
He's considered -- by most recruiting experts -- as the No. 2 player in the entire country.
And he's going to play for Beilein.
"The perception from the outside is that we're involved with higher-rated kids now," Beilein said last week with a smile. "And that's not a negative."
It's widely believed that McGary went the Michigan route due to significant prodding from his summer coach, Wayne Brumm, of the SYF Players.
Whatever the case, though, McGary is heading to a Michigan program that is dangerous this season -- and could be downright scary in the next couple of years with the addition of a monster in the middle.
Even without Morris, Michigan should still be a factor in the Big Ten race this season.
There's Novak -- one of those guys who every coach regrets passing over when he came out of high school -- and fellow senior Stu Douglass.
Much is expected of Tim Hardaway Jr., the son of the former NBA guard with the same name who is coming off a strong freshman season. The same can be said of skilled forward Evan Smotrycz, who has a year under his belt.
Freshman Trey Burke, who was a teammate of Ohio State star Jared Sullinger in high school, will likely share the point guard duties with Douglass.
And while he isn't overly intimidating from a physical standpoint, Burke is a guy who makes quality decisions -- and can really shoot the ball (something Morris was unable to do).
"He can do it all," Sullinger said of Burke. "He's fast and knows how to get his teammates the ball. There's a lot of pressure having to fill the role of Darius Morris, but he'll be able to do it."
Michigan was picked to finish near the bottom of the league last season, but the Wolverines wound up getting to the NCAA tournament, pounded Tennessee by 30 points and then nearly knocked off Duke to advance to the Sweet 16.
"We had incredible team chemistry," Novak said. "We were young, but guys bought in -- and that can't be understated."
Burke was a late pick-up by Beilein and his staff in order to have another point guard in the program. The plan was for him to learn from Morris this season, but now he could be the starter at that spot in due time. The biggest prize of the freshman class was local star Carlton Brundidge, a well-built guard who was a consensus Top 100 recruit coming out of Southfield High.
Jordan Morgan had a solid freshman campaign a year ago and while he and Jon Horford (Al's little brother) won't wow anyone, they have both made strides and should be a more-than-competent duo in the middle.
Novak says this team is more equipped to handle the expectations than the one a couple years ago that flopped to a 15-17 mark with Manny Harris and DeShawn Sims leading the way.
He didn't want to take shots at his former teammates, but Harris and Sims weren't leaders.
They weren't Beilein guys.
Now the team is full of his guys who excel in his system.
The scary part? He's also bringing talent to Ann Arbor.