Any excuse to post this again is a valid excuse.
Trey Burke continues to pile up the hardware, adding the AP National Player of the Year—Michigan's only other recipient: Cazzie Russell—and the Bob Cousy Collegiate Point Guard of the Year awards today. Begin press release:
ATLANTA, Ga. -- University of Michigan men's basketball sophomore guard Trey Burke (Columbus, Ohio/Northland HS) received the Associated Press Men's Basketball National Player of the Year and Bob Cousy Collegiate Point Guard of the Year awards today (Thursday, April 4).
After being recognized at a special awards presentation in Atlanta, Ga., Burke becomes just the second Wolverine in program history to receive the AP award, joining U-M legend Cazzie Russell, who also earned the nation's top honor in 1966. Burke also becomes the first Wolverine in program history to earn the Cousy award, which has been given annually to the nation's top point guard since 2004.
Burke is U-M's fifth consensus All-American, having earned first team honors from the John R. Wooden All-America Team, the Associated Press, the NABC, the USBWA, the Lute Olson All-America team, the Sporting News, Sports Illustrated and CBSSports.com.
The winner of the Wooden Award—for which Burke is of course a finalist—will be announced tomorrow at 11:15 am EDT on ESPN.
Darren Heitner, a sports business writer for Forbes as well as a sports and entertainment attorney, reports via Twitter that both Trey Burke and Tim Hardaway Jr. are headed to the NBA after this season:
Source: Trey Burke will leave MICH early. Will interview 5 agents: Jeff Schwartz, Arn Tellem, Henry Thomas, Bill Duffy, Alonzo Shavers.
— Darren Heitner (@DarrenHeitner) April 4, 2013
Source: Tim Hardaway Jr. will leave MICH early & very strong chance he signs w/Henry Thomas of CAA.
— Darren Heitner (@DarrenHeitner) April 4, 2013
Burke's reported departure, of course, comes as no surprise. Hardaway was considered a 50/50 shot—even though he's been projected as either a late first-round or second-round pick, the upside (from an NBA perspective) of him returning for a senior season seemed marginal at best.
Of course, we learned last year that one report (or several, even) does not guarantee a player's departure. In this case, though, Heitner appears to be going on a lot more than an empty dorm room—he's tweeting a considerable amount of specific information about potential agent choices.
UPDATE: Burke's mother issues a denial of the report, saying that her son has yet to make a decision:
Just spoke with Trey Burke's mother, Ronda, who says "He has not made any decision" about going pro.
— Eric Adelson (@eric_adelson) April 4, 2013
UPDATE II: The plot thickens:
@zhelfand spoke to my (trusted) source. Call from Hardaway Jr.'s father does not sway his position.
— Darren Heitner (@DarrenHeitner) April 4, 2013
UPDATE III: As reader SFBlue points out, Heitner has a bit of a checkered history when it comes to his journalistic credibility. Considering it's pretty clear he didn't do his due diligence in reporting this story—a call should've been placed to the Burke and Hardaway families, at the very least—perhaps it's best we pretend this never happened.
The story of this game in three gifs:
Much, much more after the jump. Best of luck voting for just one favorite.
We're still internet-bereft in our house so I've spent the last few days hanging out in coffee shops and being part of the weird couple who shows up at the bar on a Monday and sits in a corner with their laptops, not talking to each other. This is of course extremely unfortunate in the scheme of things, but being nearly off the grid did accidentally provide me with yet another reason to write about Trey Burke's shot—shots—against Kansas, and I'm sure we all agree this is a good thing.
We're down to our DVD collection if we want to pipe entertainment into our faces. I come home to the MGoWife stabbily grading papers and watching O Brother Where Art Thou. At the end, the three travelers are about to be strung up when the Tennessee Valley Authority floods the valley, sparing them. They pop up, taking in great gulps of air.
The yokels talk about providence; Ulysses Everett McGill glibly talks rationality and progress. He has the gift of gab.
He is then struck dumb by a cow on the roof of a barn. While this stands pretty much on his own as a reason to shut up and stare, it was also insanely prophesied to him at the beginning of the movie. In context of a movie so defiantly old-timey it created a minor American roots music revival, the cow is a thesis statement.
Part of why I find sports so compelling is the cow on the roof. See this here blog's previous post for a Ulysses Everett McGill take on the Syracuse game: numbers and averages and techniques for a better life. Progress towards a better preview than rebound margin and "they just wanted it more."
This is my day to day. Which lane seems faster, what is my model of this driver in front of me, which of the three egress points from my new house is fastest given the fact that one has a couple of speed bumps and turns but the other dumps you out farther away from most things. It's fine, the algorithmic life. I like it. It's served me well.
There is something to be said, though, for pointing up at the new star in the sky and deciding this means locusts. I like sports because I can be prattling on about the electrified South and be struck dumb by something I had heard about and not believed. In those moments the day to day evaporates and I'm presented with something that has no reason, that just is.
A great roaring silence fills spaces usually occupied with chatter, modeling, moment to moment estimates, and it occurs to me that there are things other than efficiency. Clutch may not exist, but it happens.
We live in a world that has been largely demystified. We've done a pretty good job of mapping all of the uncharted lands. We have located the Higgs Boson. We have mastered fire and sequenced the human genome. And while there are many things in our world that we do not know, we chalk less and less up to the "unknowable." We give our superheroes gritty reboots to show how they could realistically exist in the world we inhabit. Reality TV has all but replaced the scripted show. Even magic has fallen victim; instead of David Copperfield making the Statue of Liberty disappear, David Blaine sits in a glass box for a week and holds his breath for 15 minutes, as if to say, "we all know the physical parameters of this world, so watch me strain against them." The illusion of the supernatural is gone. We are left with merely the unexpected.
It is no surprise, I suppose, that sports have followed suit. We scoff at announcers and commentators who pretend that a thing called "momentum" exists as a causal force separate from the game itself. These mystics see "Team A is currently playing better than Team B" as a sign that Team A is being pushed forward by an invisible yet irresistible hand. The Skip Baylesses of the world insist there is a "clutch gene" which, based on my limited understanding of genetics, is the only gene that can spontaneously appear and disappear based on one’s athletic performance on a given night. Lebron wasn't clutch until he was. Tom Brady was clutch until he wasn't, then he was again, but now he isn't. NBA players develop reputations based on incredibly small sample sizes of high-variation events, all in the name of the almighty narrative.
We modernists see these explanations for what they are: crutches. It's much easier to attribute success to intangible forces than to either find and analyze the underlying reasons or to acknowledge the role of luck and chance. You’ll never hear a commentator say, “sometimes good players miss makeable shots” or “sometimes an average player can do something great.” That isn’t satisfying, but that’s life. We want more, but sometimes there isn’t more.
So when a game like Friday's Michigan-Kansas comes along, every fiber of my rational brain tries to tell me, "these things happen." There was no voodoo. The space-time continuum did not yield just this once to the will of Trey Burke. He took a series of low-percentage shots, and he made them. I mean, look at those four shots. Trey Burke is a 38% 3-point shooter. The odds of him making three NORMAL triples in a row are about 5%. The odds of making those four shots? A 20-foot hesitation pull-up, two 27-footers, and a 30-footer? No "will to win" or "grit" or any of the hundred other clichés you can come up with can make a player capable of reliably making those shots. He got lucky, I tell myself. It was awesome and amazing and a feat of incredible skill and talent that likely won't be repeated in the near future, but it was a fluke nonetheless. “Sometimes when you’re on” and whatnot.
But I've watched the last few minutes of regulation and the first few minutes of overtime a half-dozen times. Each time I've tried to make myself believe that this is just something that happens sometimes. And each time I have failed. At this point I’m willing to swallow the clichés. Trey Burke wanted it more. He had the will to win. He put the team on his shoulders. He made the damn Statue of Liberty disappear. Don't try to tell me how he did it, or if HE did it or whether it was just one of those things that happen. Just this once I am willing to believe my eyes. Lady Liberty is gone. All that remains is Trey Burke pointing at the empty night sky.
The rote play-by-play of those four minutes hardly does his work justice, but it is illustrative.
- Burke forces a ten-second violation.
- Burke penetrates, draws in Withey and dishes to McGary for an easy lay-in.
- Burke hits a long 3.
- Burke drives for a layup.
- Burke hits The Trey.
- Burke hits a long three.
- Burke hits a long two.
That's 13 points, an assist, and a forced turnover in four minutes. He was good before and after that (he scored 23 in the second half and overtime), but those were really the magical minutes. And from a purely statistical standpoint, they were outstanding. But for those who watched the game, it was simultaneously more impressive and completely unsurprising. There's a reason Josh Bartelstein was celebrating when the ball was still in the air, and it is the same reason you felt so good when it left his hand. You've seen him do ridiculous things all year. You have experienced those moments where you both scoffed at his shot selection and laughed because you knew it would fall. It didn’t matter that he hadn’t shot the ball very well for the first 38 minutes, or that he was taking a contested shot from an improbable distance under impossible circumstances. When he released that ball, I’m willing to bet most of you reacted not with a prayer but with an unspoken “watch this.” Bartelstein knew. Bill Self knew. We knew.
Michigan fans also recognize this feeling because they have experienced its opposite many, many times. In the cold recesses of every Michigan fan's consciousness is that collective moment where Evan Turner and Josh Gasser and Kalin Lucas and Ben Brust hold an arm extended as they send a dagger straight into the souls of those helpless onlookers. There was the moment where you, like the audience in a Greek tragedy, knew the hero's fate before he did. You knew those shots were gonna drop. But for one day, Michigan finally had the deus ex machina on our side. By the time Trey hit that long pull-up two, all of your normal thoughts about ‘good shots’ were replaced by your inner Lou Brown telling Ricky to forget about the curveball and throw him the heater. We hastily scribbled a caveat to the “death to long twos” mandate (and all of the other strictures of proper basketball etiquette) that says, “...unless Trey is doing his thing, in which case, just… just watch this.”
Make no mistake; the game was not a one-man show. Michigan doesn't win that game if Mitch McGary doesn't play the game of his young life despite being punched in the groin for no particular reason. GRIII made an impossible layup from eleven feet under the basket and hit two huge free throws late. Stauskas and Hardaway had solid games. Even Jordan Morgan was there to challenge what would have been a game tying layup at the end of overtime. But that night will rightfully be remembered for Trey Burke. For a few brief minutes he made everyone believe he could do anything. If Michigan needed a four-pointer to tie, he would have made it happen. If the lights went out, he could bring them back up. If that impossibly large scoreboard came crashing down, you get the feeling he would simply shrug and say, "nah, that's cool, I'll carry this too."
Can everyone see this? Good. You’ll like this part (AP)
Brian is right that The Trey is going to be replayed during every NCAA tournament from now to the end of time, and rightfully so. It was one of the most remarkable single moments in recent tournament memory. But my lament is that it will be remembered simply as that moment. Everyone remembers the shots of Christian Laettner and Bryce Drew and Lorenzo Charles, but their shots are remembered in isolation. Trey Burke’s night was more than one glorious bomb. It was an individual effort that both encapsulates his season and made us feel for a brief moment that the gods were on our side.
Michigan fans have been incredibly fortunate to be able to watch Trey Burke do his thing this year, and among the many reasons I am so glad he did what he did against Kansas is that the basketball world got a taste of what we’ve been watching. On the biggest stage, Trey did what we have come to expect. He was unflappable. He was remarkably talented. He was clutch. We may have grown spoiled by this consistent excellence, and it will probably only be after Trey leaves that we will fully appreciate what we all just saw. In the meantime, though, Trey doesn’t seem to be done. He’s got a few more tricks up his sleeve, and I’ll be damned if I’m going to miss them.
Someone just make sure that he returns the statue before he leaves.