Once Michigan basketball no longer had four or five players from the Fab Five they were planted squarely in mediocrity. There were talented teams led by Steve Fisher, Brian Ellerbe and Tommy Amaker, but none of them ever met expectations. Current Wolverines head coach John Beilein earned his contract extension through 2018-2019 by finally breaking that trend, but it wasn't easy.
Through his first five years at Michigan Beilein met expectations three times and failed to twice, getting Michigan back into the post-season, but struggling to keep the team moving forward. They were clearly headed in the right direction based on recruiting and developing of talent - the results on the court just weren't showing yet.
2012-2013 was the season for it all to come together, the talent was in place and the Maize and Blue were ready to take off. With an undefeated non-conference season and a 7-1 start in the conference everything was going according to plan.
It didn't end up being as smooth as originally thought, two losses to Indiana, continued struggles against Wisconsin, a mauling at the hands of Michigan State and a horrendous defeat to Penn State, all of the sudden the Wolverines went from being one of the favorites to win a National Championship to a four-seed in the NCAA Tournament.
Five magical games later plus a heartbreaking defeat to Louisville in the National Championship game prior Michigan basketball glory had finally been reached.
I admittingly have some issues with Beilein's game to game coaching -- how he deals with foul trouble (I will never forgive him for Burke and McGary each playing less than 30 minutes in the title game), late game execution, use of timeouts and overall strategy, but he is the man to lead this program.
What Beilein brings in recruiting and player development overshadows those flaws. As Michigan now dives into battles for the top recruits in the country with other top programs, the Wolverines have positioned themselves to be successful on the recruiting trail. Success breeds success, and Michgan under John Beilein is setting itself up well to challenge for elite status.
It's no doubt the track that Beilein is currently taking. shooting for greatness, battling for the Final Four every year instead of settling for mid-level prospects hoping for the best — which was the concern raised most often about Beilein before he was hired. More often than not you reach the pinnacle in college basketball by obtaining elite talent, that talent is easier to identify on the court than it is on a football field or a baseball diamond.
Whether it works or not there should be no hindsight in Beilein's current strategy, it's the right thing to do. Beilein got a taste of a level of success he had never experienced before and he wants it again. Much more, he has helped build the program into the kind that is capable of reaching for this success on a yearly basis.
He has turned Michigan Basketball into Michigan Basketball once again. Now it is time to sit back for a few years and watch what he can do with it.