The Michigan Wolverines will be considered underdogs entering Friday's Sweet 16 matchup with the top-seeded Kansas Jayhawks in a South region semifinal showdown. However, the undeniable edge that the Wolverines will have will be at the point guard position.
Big Ten Player of the Year Trey Burke gives Michigan an obvious advantage over his turnover-prone counterpart Elijah Johnson.
Although Burke did turn the ball over seven times in the Wolverines' blowout win over Virginia Commonwealth in the round of 32, he did notch 18 points and made program history by breaking Darius Morris' single-season assists record (h/t MLive.com).
That's particularly impressive considering that Burke also doubles as the team's leading scorer with just under 19 points per contest. Typically, Burke's numbers reflect an average of 3.3 assists for every turnover, while Johnson boasts just a 1.5 assist-to-turnover ratio.
Yahoo! basketball expert Marc J. Spears is certainly impressed from what he's seen from Burke, which isn't necessarily the case with many others in the impending 2013 NBA draft class:
Can't say I'm too excited about most of these so-called high NBA draft prospects. But Michigan point guard Trey Burke is the real deal.— Marc J. Spears (@SpearsNBAYahoo) March 23, 2013
Even in the midst of Burke's struggles to hold onto the ball against the Rams, there was a silver lining to be found.
Tim Hardaway Jr. and Glenn Robinson III proved capable of handling the ball against a suffocating defense. Robinson's showing was especially encouraging since he hasn't consistently played well against marquee opponents as a freshman.
All of these signs bode well for a Michigan team that's entering this clash against what is arguably the best defensive team in the nation.
Led by paint enforcer Jeff Withey and lockdown perimeter defender Travis Releford, no one holds opponents to a lower field-goal percentage than the Jayhawks at 35.7 percent (h/t NCAA.com).
It was worth delving into those aforementioned players due to the matchup problems the Wolverines are going to create. Releford will likely be relegated to guarding either Hardaway or Robinson—both of whom match Releford's height at 6'6".
Which is the more likely scenario for Friday's Michigan-Kansas game?
Michigan's length bothered the Rams, and its size will draw unfavorable one-on-one scenarios for Kansas on the perimeter—most notably with regard to Burke and Johnson.
Experience is on the senior Johnson's side, but the sophomore Burke overcame a relentless VCU team ripe with NCAA tournament seasoning with relative ease.
Kansas will be another demanding test for Burke, as the lane won't be as accessible against the likes of Withey and Kevin Young on the inside. He should still be able to break Johnson down off the dribble though, and the size provided by freshman big man Mitch McGary could get one of the Kansas front-line staples into foul trouble.
That can't be totally counted on to happen on Friday in Cowboys Stadium, but one thing is certain, the circumstances of Burke's matchup with Johnson give the No. 4 seed Wolverines a wonderful chance to reach the Elite Eight.
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