When you look back on Kansas' five losses this season, two things stand out. First, losing to TCU was pretty shocking, and an 81-58 loss to Baylor in early March was brutal.
But the second is that in three of the Jayhawks' losses, the play of the opponent's point guard ultimately was the key factor in the game. Enter Michigan's Trey Burke, the main reason I believe Michigan will advance past Kansas and reach the Elite Eight when the two teams meet on Friday.
Trey Burke isn't just the best point guard in the country, he's arguably the best player, period. He's already won Big Ten Player of the Year, and he's a finalist for the Naismith Men's Player of the Year award as well (which he should win).
All Burke has done this year is lead Michigan in points (18.8 PPG), assists (6.7 APG), minutes (35.3 APG) and steals (1.6 SPG). He is an absolute stud.
And while Elijah Johnson is a strong on-ball defender, Kansas has been burnt in three of its losses by opposing point guards.
|11/13/12||Michigan State||67-64||Keith Appling||19 points, three steals, three assists|
|2/2/13||Oklahoma State||85-80||Marcus Smart||25 points, nine rebounds, five steals, three assists|
|3.9/13||Baylor||81-58||Pierre Jackson||28 points, 10 assists, six rebounds, two steals|
Obviously, Michigan will have its own difficulties matching up with center Jeff Withey. But Withey doesn't have the ability to single-handedly lift Kansas to a win in this contest.
But Burke has that ability. If there is one player in this tournament that can go all Kemba Walker on the field, he's that guy.
Sure, he was somewhat subdued against South Dakota State, scoring just six points (though he did add seven assists). Against VCU, however, he was up to his old tricks, scoring 18 points and adding seven assists and two steals.
One thing that makes Burke so dangerous is that he doesn't just beat opponents by scoring the ball. The sophomore has become much better at facilitating for his teammates and gets players like Tim Hardaway Jr., Nik Stauskas and Glenn Robinson III involved in the offense.
Which team wins?
So if Kansas focuses too much attention on Burke, he'll gladly find the open teammate. There aren't too many players in the country who can beat teams as scorers and passers.
Kansas plays solid defense, will give Michigan fits on the boards and has its own studs in Withey and Ben McLemore, but I think Burke is going to be too much for the Jayhawks to handle. Remember, this Michigan team has the talent to win a national championship, and in Burke they have a player that might just take them there.
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