January 24, 2013
Borton's Blog: How big is No. 1?
Duke left no doubt it wanted out of the No. 1 spot in college basketball. The real questions involve, will the Wolverines climb into it, and does it matter?
No. 1 in late January is terrific for giant foam finger sales, fans who want to exult loudly in the general direction of their neighbors, and for a bit of SportsCenter buzz.
In the big picture, it's about as impactful as a dam of goose feathers against a raging river. Duke fans might have gotten excited about No. 1 this week, although that's not unfamiliar territory. Now they want to avoid any more 27-point losses.
Louisville fans no doubt thought No. 1 was a big deal a week ago, and that disappeared faster than a dozen glazed donuts in a houseful of offensive linemen. Poof. What's next?
Michigan stands No. 2 in one poll, No. 3 in the other. Provided the Wolverines hold up over the next few days, do they move to the coveted top slot, or does Kansas make a move on foam fingerville?
Not to be insensitive to the sellers or the buyers, but
Here's what matters, concerning Michigan basketball: it's back in the big conversation, now and in the foreseeable future.
People will say, how can you not care about No. 1? Don't you think that influences recruits? To which the obvious answer is probably, but not significantly more than No. 2, or No. 3, or No. 4.
Look, if you're regarded as a top-five team nationally, or top-10 for that matter, recruits know they can come to your school and win in a big way. Not so long ago, that aspect of the selling job for John Beilein genuinely featured more question marks than exclamation points.
Until last year, Michigan hadn't won a Big Ten championship since 1986. Before last year, the Wolverines had finished 10th, tied for 7th, tied for 7th, and fourth in conference play under Beilein. He has spoken often about what a struggle it is getting a building program to claw past more established teams in an extremely strong league.
Nationally, the Wolverines have been an afterthought since the latter portion of the 1990s, and not floating about top-five consideration for two full decades. That's the real significance of No. 1
or No. 2, No. 3 or No. 4.
The fact is, Beilein faced monumental hurdles regarding putting Michigan in a position to recruit once again like it has the past couple of years. For all that Tommy Amaker did in guiding the Wolverines through NCAA sanctions and their aftermath, U-M still hadn't seen an NCAA Tournament for almost a decade when Beilein showed up.
Confidence in getting there - zero, based on the evidence. It's great to tell kids it's going to happen. It's quite another to let them watch it happen.
It's the same deal with facilities. "What until you see what we're going to do" goes only so far. When Michigan put $100 million where it's basketball mouth was, another negative recruiting bomb got defused.
It's like ESPN commentator Dan Dakich said recently, in running down the checklist. Great coaching staff, and a head coach with national prominence - check. Superior facilities - check. Demonstrated winning - check.
That's why No. 1, or anything in the neighborhood, constitutes a big deal.
...More... To continue reading this article you must be a member. Sign Up Now for a FREE Trial