If I told you on Friday that Trey Burke would score just seven points and Nik Stauskas would not score, while no player on Michigan scored more than 13 points, what would you say? You’d think Syracuse was in the championship game after blowing out Michigan. Well, you would have been wrong.
Michigan beat Syracuse 61-56 in an incredibly balanced fashion offensively. Burke, who had been awarded the Wooden, Cousy and AP Player of Year Awards this past week, did not look like the best player in the country. He could not solve the Syracuse zone, at least to score for himself. After going through the entire Big Ten season without being held under 15 points in a game, Burke made just one field goal, a long three on his way to just seven points.
However, a balanced Michigan attack saved the day. Mitch McGary continued his stellar tourney play, with 10 points, 12 rebounds and a career high six assists, along with two big blocks in the opening minute of the game. In Michigan’s explosive first half, where Syracuse gave up a season high 36 points, McGary diced up the zone with smart passes from the free throw line and big dunks. Foul trouble slowed him down a bit in the second half, but he was still very effective.
Glenn Robinson III also played a big role, playing both at the free throw line in the middle of the zone, as well as in the corner. Robinson scored 10 points thanks to five offensive rebounds. Tim Hardaway Jr. also added 13, but was very inefficient, shooting just 4-16 from the field.
It was actually the bench that may have saved the day for Michigan, scoring 21 points, on 7-9 combined shooting. Caris Levert and Spike Albrecht both hit two threes a piece, as Levert ended up outscoring Burke with eight points.
Will Michigan be able to beat Louisville with Burke and Stauskas playing so poorly on offense? Probably not, but the odds of Burke laying an egg twice in a row, at such a big stage, are very low. The Syracuse zone clearly frustrated Burke, making him uncomfortable. Louisville’s defense is more of a pressure type, more similar to the VCU and Florida defenses that Michigan shredded.
At the end of the day, it doesn’t matter how Michigan won their Final Four game. They are in the championship game and Burke gets a clean slate with a big stage to perform on. You better believe he will put on a show.