Soon after Michigan had learned of its fate at 8:50 p.m. Sunday, John Beilein sent a group text message to his team about the disappointing news: The Wolverines hadn’t been selected to the NIT, and their season was over.

Spike Albrecht was one of the first to reply.

“I wish next year was here tomorrow,” the guard wrote back.

The consensus from Michigan’s players following the Wisconsin loss was an understanding of their poor record but a desire to continue playing, because, if nothing else, they had improved enough that an NIT title seemed within reach — if only they were given the opportunity. Instead, the tournament selected teams like Alabama and Arizona State, both of which finished above .500.

There were no excuses from Beilein — no complaints about the selection process, or injuries, or anything, really, except the admission that 16-16 isn’t good enough at Michigan. At the same time, he remained optimistic that this season’s disappointments created a strong foundation for next year’s Team 100.

“The real fact is, you don’t get into these things, and you don’t go to tournaments when you come close so many times,” Beilein explained. “You have to win more games, and you have to do better than we did, and that’s a fact.

“Still proud of our team and how resilient they were all year long. Great growth in them, as we’ve talked about. But really, spots of what could be a brilliant future for the program, for them individually, and, of course, Michigan basketball overall.”

It would’ve taken something truly special for a squad without Caris LeVert and Derrick Walton to reach the NCAA tournament. But their injuries forced the freshmen into action, and many of them made dramatic in-season improvements.

The result was a group that, without the two key players, lost several winnable games but was beginning to hit its stride by March.

“This team is coming together like a team we hadn’t been most of the year,” Max Bielfeldt said after the Wisconsin defeat. “It was something special.”

But the selection committee didn’t deem the Wolverines worthy of a berth, putting a pause on the progress being made by Zak Irvin and the freshmen. As Albrecht explained on the Inside Michigan Basketball radio show Monday night, Michigan simply “ran out of time.”

“Our kids were excited to have this opportunity,” Beilein said. “They don’t get to have another year. I get to coach for a long time, and they don’t get to have that year back. You feel bad for them.”

Instead, Michigan has next year. It has the entire freshman class returning from a summer with strength and conditioning coach Jon Sanderson. It has depth at guard — Walton, Albrecht and Muhammad-Ali Abdur-Rahkman — plus a duo of solid forwards in Irvin and Aubrey Dawkins.

There will be additions, too, in D.J. Wilson — who said he has already added 10 pounds of muscle —  and sharpshooter Duncan Robinson.

Even Beilein figures to make changes after a frustrating season.

“I continue to try to evolve as a coach,” Beilein said. “What’s important to winning for some teams may be less important or more important than other teams. That’s the big thing.”

Exactly what the coach has at his disposal depends on Caris LeVert’s NBA decision and what Michigan lands on the recruiting trail. Regardless, the program now has a strong core that can win games — and it has all next season to prove it.

While next year won’t be here until November, it’s not difficult to understand Albrecht’s yearning.

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  • Fab 5 Legends

    looking forward to next year….im slightly concerned there wont be enough minutes to go around if Levert comes back. I have a funny feeling someone may eventually transfer- maybe not next year but following. I just don’t see Beilein giving minutes to everyone. Spike/Walton/Rahkman, Dawkins/Levert/Irvin/Robinson, Doyle/Donnal/Wilson/Teske or Biefeldt returns. Hope I am wrong. if Levert & Biefeldt are done then that’s another story.
    Regardless we will be top 25 team next year all year long, with our talent & development

    • Paul Spitz

      Teske is a 2016 guy, so he won’t be an issue next year. You also left out Chatman from your list, and I’m hoping he gets it together finally. Maybe Kentucky will provide a new model for what to do with lots of talent — put them together into platoons, so you’ve got 5 guys who play together, and another 5 guys who play together. Anyway, being overloaded with talent is a problem I would LOVE to have next year! Go blue!

      • Fab 5 Legends

        Good point, I just hope the athletes buy into that philosophy. Ok I glad Teske not coming in yet, forgot about Chatman lol hope he develops also. Also hope Beilein also accepts a 9-10 rotation. In past years, I noticed 7-8 man rotation was his norm, but maybe we have me talent now then we did in the past. I think next year will be fun! Go Blue!

        • Paul Spitz

          One of our big problems this year was lack of depth, which meant players were on the court for 35 minutes or more in a game. Having more depth means you can bring a guy off the bench fresh, and give him significant minutes, or you don’t have to worry as much about someone playing aggressive and getting in foul trouble.

          • Fab 5 Legends

            True, the fact that these athletes buy into the UM way is good. I noticed across the NCAA there are more transfers than ever before, that’s why I was little worried. But your right in terms of having fresh legs, playing aggressive. I forgot that Beilein does recruit TEAM players who are willing to sacrifice their minutes that year for the good of the team. This seems like a solid group of guys that will be here until their junior/senior years.

          • Fab 5 Legends

            I can see Rahkman/Dawkins developing into pros by their junior year. At the pace their going, barring injuries. They seem like their much more ahead of the curve than say a Zak Irvin was in his freshmen year. But Zak really stepped up towards the end of this year. Hope he continues it next year

          • Champswest

            Another benefit of talent and depth is the increased competition in practice everyday. Adding Robinson, Wilson, Walton (and hopefully LeVert and a new freshman) helps everyone get better versus practicing against walkons.

    • polisci

      Too much talent sure is a nice problem to have. I think people worry too much about transfers. Let’s say we get Levert and Brown next year and you are MAAR. Well, it would seem that you are going to be the odd man out for minutes at the 1 through 3. But after next year Brown, Levert, and Spike will be gone for sure. That opens up a lot of PT on a team that is going to be really good for your last two years. Or you can transfer after next year, thus sitting out another year, and hope that you fit into whatever school you land at really quickly for the last two years. Transferring doesn’t make much sense to me in that situation.

      • psickert1

        BELIEIN Could’ve took the easy way out and gave AUSTIN hatch and medical red-hot and save a scholarship. But he kept him on a full ride and has hope that he will play again. He loves his players and treat them like family and he is always teaching.

        My son is 11 and he is really good and he told me that he is playing for scholarship to michigan and he is a major Trey Burke and Manny Harris fan

        • section13row15

          Agreed, I love Belein and how he’s handled this program from the day he joined Michigan. My whole thing is with NBA early entries, injuries, a player in front of your under-performing, and off the court issues, you never know when your name is going to be called. Aubrey Dawkins was the odd man out on paper but got a chance and was ready when his name was called. This team was out-manned most nights but never gave up. Irvin hit a low point early in the season but showed continual improvement and was peaking towards the end. These guys will get better and better and use this season as motivation for next season.

    • Champswest

      Teske doesn’t come until 2016. A stock pile of talent (with competition for minutes) is a problem I look forward to having.

    • A2MIKE

      1- Walton-30 / Spike-10
      2- LeVert-30 / Rahk-10
      3- Irvin-30 / Rahk/Dawkins-10
      4- Dawkins-20 / Robinson-20
      5- Doyle-20 / Wilson-20

      I think that is a realistic 9 man rotation based on the current roster. Wilson is going to play the 5 until he develops that jumper, which may be immediately, but more likely later in his career.

      • themandownthehall

        Spike should get more than 10 minutes. He really grew into a leadership role this year. I think he has NBA potential and we’ll see it next year.

  • Champswest

    Dylan, are you planning on doing a look at next year’s Big Ten projected team rankings this spring? If so, when? I have been looking at the teams the past few days, considering how they finished this year and who they lose through graduation. Based on that alone, I would probably put UM at least third behind only Purdue and MSU. Of course, the other variables are early NBA departures and incoming freshmen/transfers which may not be decided for awhile.

    • A2MIKE

      Indiana, especially if everyone returns, they have 0 seniors. And don’t rule out Wisconsin, especially if Dekker returns.

  • psickert1

    I’M just thankful that coach Beliein. Didn’t bank the two scholarships ( Dawkins and MAAR )like some of the social media coaches did. Someone actually posted ” I wish Dawkins commits elsewhere we already signed a mediocre player (MAAR ) .Time after time I have learned not to EVER doubt our coach.

    People did it with Spike. PEOPLE did it with Dawkins. PEOPLE did it with MAAR. Some did it with Lever due to offers and ranking..People did it to Max. Some people didn’t even want Jordan MORGAN here. One pompous poster had the nerve to tell Morgan’s mother who use to post ” that her son suck and was not very good”.

    Oh Let’s not forget the outrage for signing Stu because he didn’t even start on his team , for signing Zack Novak because he had no offers and for signing Tim Hardaway j.r before Trey Ziegler signed.

    Noone will admit it but a bunch of people look at offers and star rating and think that a player couldn’t play and Beliein is showing us that. I have faith in this staff because they do it the right way.

    That’s Why when people was complaining because coach didn’t bank them scholarships for recruitment for “15” – where are you now?

    I will not respond to negativity because I am entitled to speak my mind. Please keep it positive. If you have a legit reply ease don’t reply.

    • Adam Guiney

      Exactly. Believe in Belien! He’s proven time and time again that he has a knack for finding under appreciated talent and for skill development throughout a players career.

    • JohnNavarreIsMyHero

      Well stated! Thank you for being a constant presence on this board.

    • Corperryale

      Beilein’s fine but not infallible. Indeed he has found many excellent, underrated players as you say but there have been plenty of key recruiting misses as well as a few cases of players not working out. I agree that MAAR and Dawkins are awesome, and I am not sad about missing on a prima donna like Devin Booker. On the other hand, the jury’s still out on Chatman and Donnal (I’m not going to pile on Chatman but Donnal with his extra year has been disappointing to say the least). Telling people with “legit replies” not to reply is not constructive. Wanting to land a star like Jaylen Brown once every few years so he can drop some mean, misanthropic dunks on some Wisconsin buzz cuts is not a crime.

  • MamaWood

    Bielfeldt needs to keep his scholarship. He needs to stay. He’s earned it, and not only that, he’s going to be a senior. This team need will benefit from his leadership. Without him in the rotation this year, playing significant minutes, the outcome would have been much worse. Granted, no NCAA, no NIT, how much worse can it get? But imagine we lose several more games, what does THAT do to morale? Our teams always do better with solid leadership. Spike can’t do it alone — nor should he be expected to.

  • cathughes

    Doyle and bielfeldt both are just too soft Doyle just looks like he doesn’t have a clue of what’s going on and bielfeldt is just not tough enough

    • psickert1

      you sound stupid. Those were too of the toughest players on our team. I wish people you just fade to obscurity. You just had to post something negative.