He might well have jumped to the NBA after his freshman campaign, but Trey Burke stayed at Michigan and instantly became one of the country’s top sophomores entering the season. Having turned in a sensational first year in Ann Arbor, though, Burke faces exorbitant expectations for an encore.
Will Burke fall into a sophomore slump and disappoint the Wolverines fanbase, or will he rise to the challenge? The answer is all in how you look at it.
From an individual-performance standpoint, Burke is almost certain to fall short of what fans are looking for. In the first place, he’s not going to score a whole lot more than the 14.8 points per game he averaged a season ago—not only is that already a lot for a point guard, but he’ll also have a much deeper offense around him this season.
Even Burke’s assist totals aren’t likely to get him too many accolades, though the addition of high-scoring freshmen Mitch McGary and Glenn Robinson III will certainly boost last year’s 4.6 assist-per-game figure. That said, Burke may not even be the best distributor in his own conference—a title Aaron Craft and Kevin “Yogi” Ferrell will have something to say about—and certainly won’t outperform top passers from around the country such as Missouri's Phil Pressey or N.C. State's Lorenzo Brown.
Burke is a wonderful combo guard, but there’s just too much depth at the point around the nation this season for him to be the best player at his position—which is what he’d need to be to match the hype he’s facing. However, there’s another avenue by which Burke has every possibility of meeting his lofty expectations.
A huge part of the pressure Burke faces is to lead a Final Four contender; a plateau Michigan absolutely has the talent to reach. Even if he doesn’t put up world-beating stats in his own right, Burke is entirely capable of making the Michigan offense one of the country’s best and of challenging even mighty Indiana for the Big Ten title.
Burke has already shown his facility with John Beilein’s offense, and with the influx of talent around him, the Wolverines are decidedly in the running for a No. 1 seed next March. It’s not hard to imagine that if Burke puts up good-but-not-great individual stats while leading his team to its first Final Four appearance in two decades, that trade-off is one he (and his fans) would be happy to make.