At Big Ten media day, in the midst of trying to get quotes and videos and stories and Aaron Craft to sing, I popped over at the Michigan table and asked Stu Douglass a few questions. We talked about how difficult it would be for the backcourt to replace Darius Morris. We talked about his coach John Beilein's offensive style, whether it was fun, because it certainly looked like it was fun. Douglass said he enjoyed it because any time you were open and could "get to the laces" -- Beilein's reminder to place the ball such that the channels are horizontal in your shooting hand as you release the shot -- you could pretty much fire away.
We also, if only briefly, talked about the momentum the program must be feeling. Michigan banded together and turned itself into an NCAA tournament team last season; it has a handful of young, talented players working through the aforementioned system in 2011-12; and the school totally renovated Crisler Arena and added a new Player Development Center, facilities many say are on par with any in the country. Did Douglass feel the momentum? Sure, he said. How could you not?
The question seems even more obvious today. On Thursday, the No. 2 player in the class of 2012, Mitch McGary -- last seen doing this -- committed to Beilein and the Wolverines. He chose Michigan over Florida and Duke, two schools that have become used to landing pretty much any top recruit they please:
"Both Duke and Florida have had established programs for years and have won titles recently," McGary said. "I didn't like that as much as I liked the idea of coming in and helping to turn Michigan's program around. That's more of a challenge for me. With lots of hard work I hope to make a huge footprint in the program. For right now, I'm just happy with my decision."
That McGary would choose Beilein's program over more established winners speaks to Beilein's masterful recruiting work, and to McGary's desire to make a historical impact at a once-proud basketball program. As ESPN senior recruiting analyst Dave Telep wrote yesterday, McGary's commitment rises to the level of the historical. It's that big a deal.
Twelve months ago, no Michigan basketball fan could have possibly fathomed the potential of a season spent in national title contention. It was all small steps, hard work, getting better every day, and so on. But if things work out, that's exactly what the Wolverines could enjoy in 2012-13.