Trey Burke And The Art Of Standing In A Corner

Submitted by Ace on December 19th, 2012 at 2:18 PM

Trey Burke had a virtuoso performance against West Virginia on Saturday, scoring 27 points on 16 shots with eight assists, five rebounds, three steals, and no turnovers. Already the consensus choice for best point guard in the country, he's legitimately in the conversation for national player of the year honors; excise a ten-point, four-assist "dud" against Kansas State, and he's tallied either 16+ points or 7+ assists in every game this season.

John Beilein's offense is complicated, a highly-structured symphony of cuts and screens that relies largely on off-ball movement to create open looks. That is, unless it's time for Trey Burke to score. Last year's offense centered around the high ball screen to get Burke looks at the basket; while that's still a big part of the offense, Michigan is increasingly looking to isolate Burke and let him create.

The Wolverines did this in a variety of ways against West Virginia. Let's take a look at a few of them.

Michigan showed this setup a few times on Saturday. Instead of having two guards up top, Burke is alone with the ball; the 2 and the 3 (Hardaway and Stauskas) set up in the corner; the 4 and the 5 (Robinson and Morgan) form a stack at the free-throw line. This alignment leaves plenty of room on both sides of the court for Burke to maneuver. On this play, Burke doesn't even need help from a screen—he simply sets up his man with a hesitation move and drives hard to the right, netting a short bank:

The help is late-arriving because the threat of an open Stauskas or Hardaway (either in the corner or cutting to the basket) is, well, threatening. Having both bigs at the free-throw line or above draws the defense's shot-blocking threats away from the basket. A defense could try to counter this look by playing zone, but that brings forth a new set of problems, especially against a sharp-shooting team like Michigan.

Of course, for this set to be effective, a team needs a point guard who can create off the dribble and finish. This is not a problem for Michigan, obviously.

[Hit THE JUMP for more Trey Burke driving into big blue circles.]

At the end of the first half, John Beilein called a timeout to draw up a play for the final shot. He had Robinson come up from the high post and set a high ball screen for Burke. Then, when WVU hedged hard, he had Burke reset while the rest of the team GTFO'd:

Two crossovers and a sick hesitation dribble later, Michigan had an 11-point halftime lead.

Here's that double-stack again, this time with Burke attacking from an angle:

On this particular play, it's apparent that the players away from the ball are beginning to run a play—Caris LeVert cuts to the basket and I believe starts to head to the corner before he realizes Burke is driving—but Burke has the liberty to attack the open space when he turns the corner on his defender.

Of course, when a defense focuses too much on Burke, it opens up room for him to dish to a teammate for an easy bucket. Here's another play where Burke probes the defense before Michigan has begun to run a play—Stauskas is actually still getting to his spot when Burke drives—and when Morgan's defender jumps out to help, Burke deftly slips a pass through, leading to an uncontested dunk:

The key to all of this is Michigan's spacing at the beginning of each set, as well as the multiplicity of Beilein's offense—the Wolverines run any number of plays from each of the above looks, and opponents can't devote their defense entirely to stopping Burke's dribble-drive when he's surrounded by so much talent.

The other key, of course, is Trey Burke being really good at basketball. But you knew that already.



December 19th, 2012 at 2:37 PM ^

Great analysis. My question for the basketball-literate: It seemed that the offense against WVU was basically all Burke and Hardaway. The bigs and even Stauskas seemed to have off days, never really getting a lot of touches to get in rhythm.

Obviously it worked, but when WVU was chipping at the lead and Burke was on the bench there was suddenly nobody else that seemed capable of stepping up. Which hasn't been typical this season. Is this a function of one game where two guys were hot and the others off, or WVU's defense leaving the guards open... Or could our reliance on Burke's brilliance be stunting the wider play of the team?

I'm legitimately interested. Small sample size and all, but Michigan is a better team if all five guys on the floor are threats.


December 19th, 2012 at 2:58 PM ^

In regards to your second paragraph, I think it was two things. 1. WVU did a horrible job with their help defense on the pick and roll and even straight driving opportunities for Burke, and 2. Stauskas had an off night.

Stauskas got touches, he just had a bad night shooting and turned the ball over more than usual. If it seemed he wasn't involved late, I think that was largely a result of him struggling early and Belein (and Burke) figuring that it wasn't his night. The bigs in Belein's offense never seem to get the ball much, other than on the roll or offensive glass (the exception here, of course, was Pittsnogle, who got the ball a lot, but largely because he could shoot so well from 3). About the only complaint that could be lodged against the offense to this point is that it could do more to get shots for GRIII.

That said, this team is clearly going to go through Burke. If he's on like he was that night and the other team is defending poorly, there are going to be games where all 5 guys don't get involved. He's good enough that it's OK, IMO.


December 19th, 2012 at 4:38 PM ^

It was a function of how WVa was defending that made the PG spot more critical in this game than others. The Mountianeers play high pressure defense. This means they crowd the ball handler but also they get up in our guys off the ball, which takes away passing lanes. Beilien's spacing on the perimiter made this even more pronounced, leaving the ball handler on an island.

This makes it difficult for Spike to do what he is asked to do, which is usually just dribble the ball up and initiate a play, because the pass that initiates the offense is being taken away. However, this high pressure opens up driving lanes for the person with the ball in his hands and the back door cut for those without the ball. Spike threw 3 backdoor cuts from what I remember which is the right read, but he missed the pass once or twice.

The thing that Trey did so well was beat his man off the dribble (which is easier against high ball pressure, but you're also more likely to turn the ball over). This meant the help wasn't there, because of the defense's off the ball pressure, so he had easy buckets. Spike doesn't have the handles or the quickness yet to blow by people yet, end WVa defensive scheme was perfect to expose that. However, if was easy pickings for Trey, so we saw him rack up 27 or so.


December 19th, 2012 at 6:26 PM ^

that yes, despite having a great number of talented playmakers, Michigan is going to be more vulnerable without Burke, or if he is effectively shut down. Great point guard play may give us an edge over almost every other team out there, but everyone is going to be looking to shut down Mr. Burke. 


December 19th, 2012 at 2:59 PM ^

That first set is really great with Michigan's players. 1. It pulls the bigs away from the basket and eliminates help down low that can step in to draw a charge. 2. Given Hardaway and Stauskas on the wing, it compromises the ability of the wing defenders to help, lest they give up an open 3 or, if they peek too much at Burke, a back cut. 3. All this is premised, of course, on the ability of Burke to pretty much go by his man at will.

WVU compounded the implicit difficulty of Belein's sets all night by being totally irresponsible defensively, though. On that first play, I have no idea what the guy guarding Morgan is doing pulled so far from the hoop against a 5 that can't shoot from distance. He should be sagging back behind the stack, unless he's supposed to provide immediate help on Burke, either by hedging off the high screen or by closing off the lane in the case Burke turns the corner. If he is supposed to do that, he completely blows his responsibility. When Burke starts to turn the corner, instead of helping, he turns his back on Burke to maintain contact with Morgan, allowing Burke a clear lane to the short bank. Just awful stuff. No wonder Huggins was so upset.

It'll be interesting to see how well these sets work against more responsible defensive teams like OSU and MSU. It'll also be interesting to see where Indiana tries to hide Hulls, who is too short to cover the wings but way to slow to check Burke.


December 19th, 2012 at 9:19 PM ^

I am anticipating a very heated match-up between Burke and Craft when Mich and Ohio get together.  Of note, this is probably the biggest matchup in determining who will be able to call themselves Big10 champs at the end of the year.  I see Burke being able to find the open shooter, however I think it could be difficult for him to find his own shots.  Are there any similar PG's to Craft that Burke has faced already this yr, or will face before Ohio St. that would give us some kind of indication on how Burke will fare against tough D?


December 19th, 2012 at 9:45 PM ^

I've watched both. Trey in eight games and Craft in three. I really think Burke has left him behind at this point. I expect him to really show it when the time comes. He's just faster now and more aware of his court vision. Craft has really good D and sticks a ton of 3's but at this point Trey can create for himself and team mates on a higher level.

San Diego Mick

December 20th, 2012 at 2:01 AM ^

on Burke passing craft up, and in a big way in the all around game.

Craft is known for his defense and i believe that this match-up is when we will need Spike on the floor with Trey to offset Craft's D as he will be up in Trey's grill all game and having Spike handle the ball up the court frequently will preserve Trey's energy and offset Craft's ability to take Trey off his game and maybe ruin Ohio's gameplan.


December 20th, 2012 at 8:21 AM ^

In that case, who do you sit? Stauskas and take out our best shooter? THJ and take out our best slasher and a key rebounder? GRIII? OSU is just as long as we are on the wing, so who do you hide Spike on defensively?

Burke will be fine bringing the ball up, it's not going to tire him out, and the game will likely turn on the Craft/Burke matchup. Playing some new wonky 2 PG lineup for any extended period of time is likely to screw us up more than OSU.


December 20th, 2012 at 1:13 AM ^

"This alignment leaves plenty of room on both sides of the court for Burke to maneuver."

This comment reminded me of when the Bulls head coach responded to a reporter's question about the play he had drawn up for Jordan's winning shot, which went something like this: Give Michael the ball, and everyone else get the f*** out of the way.

Mr. Yost

December 20th, 2012 at 9:27 AM ^

We simply have too many weapons we you have a player like Burke. If you help on the drive, he's going to kick to the open man. There is no way both THJ AND Stauskas is going to be off in the same game. Not to mention we have GRIII, Levert and even Vogrich if they ever were both off.

If you stay on the wing, you're giving up layups to Burke or dunks to morgan all game. That's not going to work either.

Burke puts sooo much strain on a defense, because he's a scorer that is a willing passer.

IMO, the only way to beat Michigan is #1 - Have personnel that somewhat matches up (aka be a ranked team). #2 Pressure/Trap the ball with zone presses all game.

You can't man press, Burke will beat it off the dribble. I'd zone full court or 3/4 court press Michigan and try to get the ball out of Burke's hands. Try to make them use some clock and force Michigan into a situation where Burke has to create or jack up a 3 late in the shot clock.

IMO, that's the only way. Because if you get us in a half court game - you're dead. Indiana and Duke may be the only two teams that can stay with us in the half court. MAYBE.

You have to extend your defense, know that you're going to give up some easy dunks to Morgan or GRIII, but you also may turn us over enough to match that.


December 20th, 2012 at 10:25 AM ^

They have Jordan Hulls who is a terrible defender.  They're not going to put him on Burke.  Maybe not Yogi Ferrell because he isn't a great defender yet. If they put their best defender Olapido, that leaves Hulls or Yogi on THJ or Nik which isn't a good match up either.  IMO, Michigan will shred IU offensively.

I would say that Florida and Louisville are one of the few teams who have the athleticism and personnel to matchup against Michigan.


December 20th, 2012 at 10:42 AM ^

You're right that Indiana's going to have a huge problem matching up defensively, mainly because Stauskas is tall enough to shoot over Hulls. I really don't know what they do with Hulls defensively when they play us. He's vital to Indiana's offense, but a total and complete liability on the defensive end, as was evident at the end of the Butler game. The closest analogue we have is Stauskas, and at least he's 6'6", able to contest shots, and isn't likely to get isolated on a primary ball handler.

That said, the Indiana game will be the first game where our bigs are really tested by a talented big man. I could imagine a situation where Morgan and McGary are in pretty deep foul trouble the whole game (I'm not yet convinced they're disciplined enough defensively to contain Zeller) and where Indiana essentially wins the game from the line b/c they get in the bonus early. On the other hand, they showed a weird tendency to forget about Zeller against Butler when Butler slowed the game down. Watford's strange disappearance his hurting them too.

OSU, unfortunately, may matchup really well against us. They have perhaps the best on-ball defender in the NCAA, a bunch of long, athletic wings, and can play a good rim protector in Williams (though he's not getting that much run) or a big body in Ravenel. Matta is nowhere near Belein as an offensive coach, but his teams are always well organized defensively. And given their personell, they can reasonably expect to play us straight up, only selectively going with trapping defenses, because Craft may be the only defender in the country that can keep Burke in front of him one-on-one. Those are going to be really tight, nerve-wracking games.