We’re finally to the last stages of the NCAA Tournament. March is over and so is the madness. The teams and the players who got this far are for real and they aren’t surprising anyone. Over the last few days, they’ve been able to watch film on each other and analyze what the opposition likes to do. Right now they’re finding out that each team does a lot of great things — some of which can’t be stopped.
The field is down to four: Syracuse, Louisville, Michigan and Wichita State. Each team has players who are great in their own right, but there’s one player who has the ability to dazzle everyone. To win the tournament, you need a player who is unstoppable. This year, that player is Michigan’s Trey Burke.
Burke hasn’t had the best tournament if we’re talking scoring, but he’s done everything else well and has carried Michigan Derrick Rose-at-Memphis-style when he needed to. There are plenty of great players who are in this conversation, but Burke is the overall best player and will carry Michigan to where they need to go.
To cut down the nets on Monday night, Michigan will need to beat Syracuse and possibly Louisville. These two teams represent Big East defense at its finest. They both play really physical and overwhelming zone defense. Syracuse implements their famous 2-3 zone and Louisville uses a weird matchup zone that many teams struggle to solve.
A lot of teams struggle to solve the zone issue because they don’t have great guard play. When it comes to guard play, Michigan has that down largely because of Burke. The attention he draws through his penetration, and the threat he poses to score can eat a zone up.
Even if they were to meet up with Wichita State, Burke would be a factor against their defense. They don’t use any specific type of zone play, but they’re really good at rebounding the ball. Yet if Trey Burke is getting in the lane and attracting attention, his teammates will get extremely good looks. Ask Florida how hard containing Burke’s penetration is. They’ll point to Nik Stauskas, who made all six of his three-point attempts against the Gators. Where did those attempts come from? Passes that were created by Burke’s penetration.
Burke has averaged 7.8 assists per game and that doesn’t include all of the hockey assists he would get if they were recorded. Burke creates extra passes for his teammates by sucking help defenders into the lane. It’s impossible to guard Burke one-on-one, so eventually, whoever’s open is going to get the ball. He makes the weapons that Michigan has even more dangerous.
The key stat with Syracuse that everyone is using is that they’ve only allowed 61 field goals and have forced 67 turnovers throughout the NCAA Tournament. Well, Burke is shooting 46 percent from the field on the year and 38 percent from beyond the arc. He’s averaged 6.8 assists and only 2.2 turnovers per game. His assist-to-turnover ratio is 3.1 — something has to give here. If you ask me, Syracuse is going to get the best of Burke.
He has the roster around him (Tim Hardaway Jr., Glenn Robinson III, Stauskas and Mitch McGary) to flourish in the final games of the NCAA Tournament. All the tools needed to succeed are around him. He’s the reason why Michigan is one of the top teams in the NCAA in field goal percentage; his shot creation is top notch for this level and will be showcased continually on the next level as well. If there’s a player I needed to trust to will his team to victory this weekend, it would be Trey Burke.
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