Trey Burke has been the unquestioned leader and best player for the Michigan Wolverines basketball team almost since his arrival in Ann Arbor. Tonight in the Wolverines’ NCAA tournament opener, Burke had one of his worst games of the season.
Burke only contributed six points on a dismal 2/12 shooting, but his best contribution turned out to be as an assist man. He ended up with seven assists and almost all of them came in the second half. Despite the poor night from Burke, the Wolverines were victorious over the South Dakota St. Jackrabbits 71-56.
The Wolverines were able to run away with this game thanks to big nights from the team’s second generation stars and one player who wasn’t even a regular starter during the season.
Glenn Robinson III and Tim Hardaway Jr. came up big tonight for the Wolverines with Burke not his usual productive self. It was the NCAA tournament debut for Robinson III (a freshman), but both he and Hardaway Jr. have been playing in some big shadows since the first day they dribbled a ball. Robinson III is the son of Glenn Robinson, former Mr. Basketball in Indiana, standout for the Purdue Boilermakers and #1 pick in the 1994 NBA draft. Hardaway is the son of Tim Hardaway, a former NBA All-Star.
Mitch McGary has primarily been a big body for the Wolverines who can gather up rebounds and scores points in the paint when needed. Tonight he was all of that, but tonight he was starting. Not only was McGary starting, but was starting in an NCAA tournament game. That’s pressure.
Robinson III and Hardaway Jr. scored 21 points for the Wolverines. Both also shot very well from the field. Robinson III went 8/9 shooting, including three three-pointers in as many attempts. Hardaway Jr. was 8/13 from the field, but made five three-pointers in seven attempts. The two also combined for ten rebounds.
McGary was a force in the middle during this game. McGary doubled his season average with 13 points, most of those being close dunks or layups, and nearly doubled his season average in rebounds by pulling down nine.
All in all, these three almost beat the Jackrabbits by themselves. The trio combined for 55 (the Jackrabbits scored 56 as a team) of the Wolverines’ 71 points, 19 of the team’s 26 rebounds, and were the team’s best shooters by far.
This is the best possible outcome for the Wolverines to begin the tournament. Even though Burke played poorly and was shaken up after a fall to the floor in the second half, it didn’t stop the Wolverines. To know that your best player can have one of the worst games of his season and your team still has little trouble beating an opponent speaks to the talent that the Wolverines have in their starting lineup, now including McGary.
There’s no doubt that the Wolverines will need Burke to get into a groove if they are going to get to Atlanta, but there should be plenty of confidence in the Wolverines’ locker room after this game.