On Thursday night, in an impressive top-ten matchup, the Michigan Wolverines showed fans and critics once again that they have the best backcourt in all of NCAA Basketball. Trey Burke and Tim Hardaway Jr. powered the Wolverines to their seventeenth win in eighteen games, after a Big Ten win over top ten ranked Minnesota Golden Gophers.
Earlier this year, I listed five key reasons why the Michigan Wolverines will win the NCAA Championship. On that list was the strong backcourt consisting of Burke and Hardaway Jr. The duo combines to score 34 points per game between them. On Thursday, in the key conference battle, the backcourt duo scored 39 of Michigan’s 83, in an 83-75 win.
Hardaway Jr. had 21 points, five rebounds and three assists, while Burke added 18 points and nine assists. The contributions go beyond the box score, as the duo looked comfortable together against a solid Minnesota squad. When the Gophers got into foul trouble, the Michigan backcourt exposed backup players and helped the Wolverines break the game open. Several big three-point shots also helped take the strong Minnesota crowd out of the game. On the night, the Michigan duo was 7-11 from behind the three point line.
Burke gets a lot of attention as a Player of the Year candidate, but Hardaway Jr. deserves just as much praise as the perfect complement to the sophomore guard. Hardaway Jr. averages 16.1 points in his junior season, after previous years of 14.6 and 13.9. The junior guard also adds 5.4 rebounds and 2.6 assists per game.
Amazingly enough, the win for Michigan was their first road win against a top-ten ranked team since 1996. The win continues a growing dominance over ranked teams in the Big Ten by Michigan. Over the last two years, Michigan is now 3-2 against top ten Big Ten teams and Burke and Hardaway Jr. continue to be a big part of that reason. If Burke and Hardaway Jr. can continue to play like this against top competition, they will win the Big Ten as I predicted.