A critical free throw here or there aside, it's hard to find much at fault with the basketball skills of Trey Burke.
The Big Ten Conference coaches and media agreed Monday, when they voted the Michigan sophomore point guard as the league's top player. But when you break down his skills, what makes Burke so special?
“He is so good with his instincts,” Wolverines coach John Beilein said recently.
Michigan was in trouble late in a recent win at Purdue. However, over the last four-plus minutes, Burke took over – and according to his coach – without much instruction from the sidelines.
“As I talk with (Burke) at different times, he knows what I'm talking about,” Beilein said. “I just basically gave him some very sketchy (things). I said 'Let's keep the ball in the middle of the floor. We want you to read which side Nick (Stauskas) is on and which side Tim (Hardaway Jr.) is on and then attack. And then I let him go. That's the way that you have to coach (him).”
Burke and his team will open the Big Ten Tournament against Penn State on Thursday in Chicago at about 2:30 p.m. (BTN).
Beilein spoke about a number of varying ways that Burke can “attack” an opponent. However, when he is at his best, Burke is continually getting into defensive gaps – particularly in the middle of the floor – and causing help defenders to “help up,” which leaves cutters along the baseline for lay-ins and/or dunks.
“He has a very good middle game,” Beilein said. “He's got a few floaters himself. He never surprises me. I just know that we are usually going to get a good shot.”
And that “good shot” may come from Burke or it may not. In 31 games this season, Burke has played nearly 1,100 minutes and not just scored 19.2 points per game, but also dished out nearly seven assists each time out.
Boilermakers coach Matt Painter talked at length about Burke's impact offensively, as well as the multiple areas in which he can contribute.
“Trey Burke is a very good player,” Painter said. “He's 50 percent of (Michigan's) offense. And some of those assists are (for) three-pointers, so he's more than 50 percent. He's scoring or passing on about half of their plays that are productive.”
So what is the game plan to implement – if you can?
“One thing that you want to try and do is to get him out of rhythm,” Painter said. “But when he makes speed-dribble step-back pull-ups, you know that you are going to (just) shake his hands a couple of times. That's why some consider him the best lead guard in the country.”
Beilein admitted to not being aware of all of the point guards throughout college basketball. However, he just knows what he is being told by those who do follow the sport nationally.
“Here's what I know every day,” Beilein said. “He's going to play hard and he's going to play as smart as he can. I really don't watch a lot of college basketball if it's not Big Ten basketball. (But) There are a lot of people that have watched (Burke) play that have watched the other guys, and believe he is (the best).”