They’ve got the 19-1 record. This week, they became the top-ranked team in the nation. But just how good are the Michigan Wolverines and their star, Trey Burke?
“He’s going to get twenty points,” said Northwestern head coach Bill Carmody. “You’ve got some shooters on this team, and Burke, it’s unbelievable.”
Averaging 17.9 points, seven assists and three rebounds per game, the 6-foot point guard is a strong candidate for National Player of the Year honors. He’ll lead No. 1 Michigan against visiting Northwestern on Wednesday, and the Wildcats certainly know what they’re up against.
“Trey is a great player,” said sophomore point guard Dave Sobolewski. “He’s great offensively, both scoring and getting other guys shots. It’s going be a team effort to try to slow him down and hopefully we can do a good job.”
The two teams last met January 3 in Evanston, where the Wolverines rolled to a 94-66 victory. Michigan came out of the gate red hot, with Burke racking up 13 points in the game’s first five minutes. Northwestern knows that can’t happen again if it hopes to pull the upset.
“[Burke] plays with great pace and confidence,” said senior Jared Swopshire. “They got off to a really good start and were hitting a lot of threes. We’re going to look at the film and see how we can stop those guys.”
Michigan presents Northwestern with plenty of tough decisions, beginning with Burke. After the sophomore point guard burned the Wildcats for 23 points and five assists in their previous matchup, head coach Bill Carmody will make the call on how to best defend Burke this time around.
“[During the previous game] we went under the screens against Burke, when he comes off screens he makes everyone so much better,” Carmody said. “Last year he was a decent shooter, but he’s improved upon that and banged two threes when we went under [screens]. I don’t know what you can do—you have to give up something.”
And whatever looks defenses give up, Michigan typically takes advantage. Aside from Burke, the Wolverines have a wealth of impact players including junior guard Tim Hardaway Jr. and freshmen Nik Stauskas and Glenn Robinson III. Their array of shooters can give the opposition nightmares.
“It starts with Burke scoring and distributing, but they have weapons throughout their lineup,” said Sobolewski. “You just have to do your best to slow them down.”
Even if Northwestern controls the pace and shuts down Burke, it doesn’t guarantee a win. But the upset-minded Wildcats are certainly eager for the task.
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