Fans at the Crisler Center should enjoy Trey Burke while they have him.
Burke seriously considered leaving for the NBA at the end of his freshman season, and the way he’s playing this year, it is hard to see a way that he’ll come back next year.
Burke picked up the Big Ten Player of the Week award on Monday after averaging 23.5 points, 6.5 assists and 4.5 rebounds in wins over Binghamton and West Virginia. That helped the Wolverines improve their record to 11-0 — their best start since the NCAA championship of 1988-89.
Last season, Burke was a one-man team at times, even leading the Wolverines in blocked shots while playing point guard. This season, thanks to the improvement of Tim Hardaway Jr. and Jordan Morgan and the addition of talented freshmen like Glenn Robinson III, Nik Stauskas and Mitch McGary, Burke has been able to focus on his strengths.
The results have been obvious. Burke is averaging 18 points and seven assists a game, and has scored in double figures in all 11 games. In his last six games, his assist-to-turnover ratio is over seven.
All that has made him the unquestioned leader of the team that’s now ranked No. 2 for the first time since the days of the Fab Five.
Dec. 11: MICHIGAN 67, Binghamton 39. The Wolverines came into the game ranked third in the country. The Bearcats were 344th in one of the few computer rankings that include all 347 Division I teams. The game lived up (down?) to its billing, with Michigan taking control after falling behind 10-8 in the first few minutes.
Michigan didn’t play particularly well, shooting just 44 percent despite Burke’s 8-for-12 performance, and getting to the free-throw line only five times.
But, even at half-speed, the Wolverines were more than a match for the hapless Bearcats, who have never recovered from a 2009 academic scandal that ravaged the program.
Stauskas, cheered on by a maize-and-blue Canadian flag from the student section, continued his hot-shooting streak with four 3-pointers in eight tries.
Dec. 15: Michigan 81, West Virginia 66 (at Brooklyn). This had the makings of a classic — John Beilein coaching against the school where he had tremendous success, facing another top coach in Bob Huggins. It was also Michigan’s first look at the palatial Barclays Center, just one night after the Pistons played there for the first time.
Much to the dismay of neutral observers but to the joy of Michigan fans, the Wolverines never trailed, led by as many as 18 and cruised to an easy victory. Meanwhile, Huggins fumed and threw his players under every New York City bus and subway car he could find.
Burke was again the star, finishing with 27 points, eight assists and zero turnovers, but he was capably aided by 25 points from Hardaway. Michigan shot 56 percent from the floor despite a rare off-night from Stauskas.
Burke: You probably guessed this one by now, but he’s quite possibly the best point guard in the country and moving up NBA draft boards every week.
McGary: He didn’t do much in limited minutes against West Virginia, but he had 10 rebounds against Binghamton and has combined with Morgan to give Michigan their first low-post presence in the Beilein era.
Stauskas: The Canadian had to cool off eventually, and that came this week, when he’s been dealing with basketball and his first set of final exams. He hit 6 of 15 3-pointers, a more than respectable 40 percent, but went 1-for-6 on 2-point shots and turned the ball over six times against West Virginia.
Morgan: The junior has been an inside force for Michigan this season, but managed only two rebounds in each of Michigan’s games this week.
Thursday: Eastern Michigan at Michigan. The Eagles make the short trip down Washtenaw Boulevard for the only game this week, while the Wolverines deal with finals and the upcoming holidays.
At 270th in the country, Eastern is hardly as bad as Binghamton, but EMU is coming off a 26-point loss to Illinois-Chicago and isn’t likely to give Michigan much of a problem.