Here's Friday Dear Gary ...
Dear Gary: First off, let me say thanks for providing the most offseason coverage of college basketball that anyone could ask for. Also, I have a question: Bo Ryan always seems to do a fantastic job with a very small number of legitimately high-level recruits, and from what I've heard he really only goes after players that fit the Wisconsin system. ... Are there any other major conference coaches who recruit mid-level players like Ryan and manage any sort of success, or is Bo unique?
First, thanks for your first sentence.
A first sentence like that will pretty much get any question answered. So all you emailers should keep that in mind, that I'm a sucker for nice words. As for Bo Ryan, yes, he's unique. But he's still signed his share of high-level recruits over the years -- guys like Brian Butch (ranked 11th in the Class of 2004), Greg Stiemsma (ranked 31st in the Class of 2004), Joe Krabbenhoft (ranked 35th in the Class of 2005) and Jason Bohannon (ranked 42nd in the Class of 2006). So while Ryan does consistently overachieve given the level of natural ability in the Wisconsin program, it must also be noted that he usually has some Top 50-caliber prospects at his disposal.
John Beilein, not so much.
I think that's the name that best answers your question.
I'm not sure Beilein has ever had a Top 50 prospect, but he's done OK for himself. He went to the Elite Eight and compiled a 104-60 record in five seasons at West Virginia before leaving for Michigan, where there is no evidence that his recruiting philosophy has been greatly altered. And though I've vowed to never doubt Beilein because he's proved me wrong too many times, I will say that searching for "diamonds in the rough" who fit a particular system is not the way to compete for national titles in this era of college basketball.
Isn't that the goal at Michigan, to compete for national titles?
If so, I'm not sure that can be done with under-the-radar prospects because a team needs at least three NBA players to win a national title, or at least that's what recent history suggests. Don't believe me, checkout the last five NCAA tournament champions ...
2008: Kansas (Brandon Rush, Darrell Arthur, Mario Chalmers)
2007: Florida (Joakim Noah, Al Horford, Corey Brewer)
2006: Florida (Joakim Noah, Al Horford, Corey Brewer)
2005: North Carolina (Marvin Williams, Sean May, Raymond Felton)
2004: Connecticut (Emeka Okafor, Ben Gordon, Josh Boone)
So clearly, competing for national titles requires NBA-caliber professionals, and I'm not sure Beilein deals in those enough. That's the concern. But make no mistake, the man is a tremendous instructor. And if any high-major coach deserves the benefit of the doubt, Beilein is probably that guy.