There were four of them, concerned—and perhaps a bit captivated—by Trey Burke's presence. Before the ball even reached his hands they converged, four Northwestern players ignoring the basic tenets of basketball defense in a desperate ploy to stop this whirling dervish.
Like a wide receiver coming out of his break, Burke planted, hard, exploding off his left foot. There was a man there harboring vague hopes of impediment, hopes that were dashed as Burke deftly whipped the ball behind his back. Screeching to a halt with one last dribble, he rose above the three remaining Wildcats and hit Nik Stauskas with a pass so pinpoint it seemed to initiate the Canadian's shooting motion.
Stauskas, naturally, drilled the corner three—a disturbing reminder to the Northwestern Four that, my god, Trey Burke has accomplices.
At this point, Burke had already scored 13 points on 5-6 shooting—his only miss a Kobe Assist—and recorded two steals. He'd just committed two turnovers so uncharacteristic that ESPN's cameras later caught Burke in the huddle looking less angry than befuddled. Retribution was swift, and Michigan now led 25-9.
The rest of the proceedings were purely academic.
Burke's final stat line—23 points, four rebounds, five assists, four steals—somehow belies his dominance. If he so desired, he could've scored 40; just ask Dave Sobolewski, victimized by so manyBurkecrossovers I'd no less blame him for quitting the game than Vincent Smith after the Clowney hit.
Instead, all five Michigan starters finished in double figures while shooting a combined 64.5%, a number that would've been even higher had Stauskas not surprisingly missed a few wide-open looks. Burke had done what he needed to secure victory with his opening foray; for the rest of the game he played the role of setup man, interspersing attacks to remind Northwestern whom they had to focus their attention upon.
2012-13 was supposed to be the Year of Prodigious Talent, the convergence of a pair of future NBA players with Michigan's best freshman class since the Fab Five. It still is, of course. But more than that, it's the Year of Trey Burke, Virtuoso. Come for the potential Final Four team, stay for the once-in-a-generation point guard.
Burke, quite literally, brought Northwestern to their knees. Ever the merciful killer, it took him a matter of minutes to put the Wildcats out of their misery. Surrounded by a fearsome gang—The Mississauga Sniper, Spawn of Killer Crossover, Spawn of Big Dog, The Big Puppy—he prepares to rampage through the Big Ten.
I'm going to be so confused if/when they finally lose a game. The only thing in Michigan basketball history I can remember being comparable is the sophomore year of the Fab 5. Those 5 young men were simply amazing to watch. You knew that if they had put in the effort they could have won every time they stepped on the court.
With this team, the effort is there every night it seems. I honestly don't understand how Duke is the nearly consensus #1 team.
Such words forever, or just until you and others like you, tell us it is okay to start using them again? Of course, that time will never come because there will be still another senseless killing somewhere.
I hope the next player who considers going pro after a good but not great year takes a look at what Burke is doing for his draft status. The arguement for leaving last year was "he's not going to get any taller so he might as well go now" seems pretty hollow given the comparisons now to Chris Paul and his possible lottery selection. He has moved his probable income significantly simply by staying put and getting much, much better.
It will be interesting to see the difference in guarenteed money and career length between Morris and Burke given that one left after his one good year and one stayed and became great.
Just positing a theory...would Darius have shown the same learning/growth curve by staying? My sense is it's hard to say/confirm with any semblance of certainty. We know M definitely could have used his talent, fo sho. Sometimes, the player needs to buy into his coaches direction, rather than his own teenage knuckleheadedness (see BWC for a prime example)...and Jake Long for the other end of the spectrum. Different strokes for different (or diff'rent) folks!
But you correctly point out that everyone who said "he can't get any better, he can't get bigger, he can't increase his stock" aren't really any more in the know than people who say "he should come back." But in this case it's readily apparent that coming back was a good idea.
...who's to say Burke would be this good without the experience he gained being "forced" to play after Morris left? He would've gotten a year of learning the offense behind Morris, but doing beats watching 9 times out of 10.
Many like to make fun of Mitch McGary's so called clumsiness. I ain't buyin' it. Think of the number of times he has taken the ball away out on the perimeter; McGary has more steals at the top of the key in 14 games than Jordan Morgan has in his career. He is either quicker than he looks, blessed with great anticipation, or both. Every game this guy gets his hands on a couple of balls, proceeding to ignite a fast break opportunity. The kicker is he is getting his steals using bad fundamentals. McGary's steal at the top of the key last night was a good example. He should be using his left arm to bat the ball away, instead, he consistently reaches for the ball across his body with his right hand. Watch out if he gets his fundamentals down.
The closest thing to a run was the first 1:05 of the 2nd half, when NW outscored Michigan 6-2. At the 18:55 mark of the 2nd half, NW got to within 17 points (53-36). Michigan scored the next 10 points and the lead never got below 20 points the rest of the game.
For my privacy, my new username is "non-Oriental non-Andrew"
taste, but if you're going to be this flowery you usually want to leaven it with a little irony, not just worship at the shrine of all things UM. The scary thing about this team for me is that they can still get so much better.
If flowery pose and hero worship were a normal occurrence on this blog, I'd agree.. but one of the reasons I enjoy reading this blog is the healthy perspective Brian, Ace, and company share. Michigan just won a road Big Ten game by its largest margin in over 40 years. If you're a Michigan basketball fan and you can't get excited by that, I'm not sure what to tell you.
Sure, the defense is imperfect, but the offense just rose to #1 in KenPom's efficiency ratings, and Ace is hardly the only person who noticed that this was the most complete game the team has played all season. And, yes, the team can get better -- but, with the possible exception of the CMU game, they have gotten better, pretty much every game. If Stauskas's open looks went down at his normal rate, and a couple of other shots rimmed in instead of rimming out, this game could easily have been a 40+ point win, on the road, in under 70 possessions, in a gym where Michigan has struggled over the past several years.
I say, let the hyperbole fly -- but it's tough being hyperbolic about Burke. He's just been that good.