Aaron Craft vs. Trey Burke: Who's the Better Point Guard?
Republican vs. Democrat.
Coke vs. Pepsi.
Boxers vs. briefs.
Scarlett Johansson vs. Blake Lively.
People make certain choices that tell a lot about them. For college basketball fans, particularly those of the Big Ten, the debate between point guards Aaron Craft and Trey Burke can be added to that list.
The battle between Ohio State's junior stopper and Michigan's high-scoring sophomore embody the heated rivalry between their schools. Any choice between their divergent styles reflects what the observer wants in his dream point guard.
Craft's defensive ferocity is his calling card; the primary skill that has fueled his rise to All-Big Ten honors.
His tremendous lateral quickness and strong frame make him extremely difficult to beat off the dribble. Burke saw all of Craft's defensive skills first-hand last March when the Buckeyes bounced the Wolverines from the Big Ten tournament.
Burke had a dismal 1-of-11 shooting night, with eight turnovers in the 22-point defeat.
Burke was more of a scorer than Craft last season, lacking dominant surrounding talents like Jared Sullinger or William Buford. Lost in Burke's free-firing reputation, however, was a solid 28.6 percent assist rate, superior to any that Craft has recorded at any point in his career.
Burke operates aggressively in Michigan's pick-and-roll offense, sometimes too much so.
Take your pick.
Fourteen times last season, Burke hoisted six or more three-point shots in a game. He shot below 30 percent from deep during those games.
This season, with the hot start from backcourt mate Tim Hardaway Jr. and strong play from UM's touted freshman class, Burke is slightly less reliant on the three and now leading the Big Ten in assists.
Entering this season, Ohio State's critics were skeptical that Craft could raise his offensive game after two seasons of being a fourth or fifth option.
While he's always been an aggressive penetrator with a .528 FT rate (compared to Burke's .305 last season), Craft started this season by making seven of 13 three-pointers against Albany and Rhode Island. He then scored 18 against Washington, draining all eight of his foul shots.
If you believe that a point guard must protect the ball at all costs, Craft has been nearly perfect in that regard this season.
He's only committed three turnovers against his 21 assists, while Burke has coughed the ball up 17 times to 34 assists. Insert the arguments about Michigan playing better competition here. Michigan's offense does Burke no favors in that regard, since he epitomizes the ball-dominant point guard.
Both still have more to prove as this season wears on.
Craft needs to prove he can be a reliable scorer against better teams than Albany and Washington, while Burke needs to show that he can lead his team in the high-pressure games after laying eggs in the Big Ten and NCAA tournament.
One has more responsibility. The other expects to have less if his teammates continue to improve.
No matter your preference, the duels between these two stars will be an overriding storyline in the 2012-13 Big Ten race.
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