Michigan Basketball: Analyzing Trey Burke's Case for Player of the Year Awards

Zach Dirlam@Zach_DirlamSenior Analyst IIApril 5, 2013

Without sophomore point guard Trey Burke running the show, the Michigan basketball program would not have been able to end its 20-year Final Four drought this season. For his efforts, Burke should have a full trophy case once the 2012-13 campaign concludes next week.

Burke is a finalist to receive the Naismith College Player of the Year, John R. Wooden Award, Oscar Robertson Award, Adolph Rupp Trophy and the Lute Olson Award. 

The Columbus, Ohio native has already been named the Big Ten Conference Player of the Year, Associated Press Player of the Year and a first-team All-American. Two-time All-American Cazzie Russell (1963-66) is the only other Wolverine to have been named the top player by the AP.

This year's Bob Cousy Award, which is presented annually to the nation's top point guard, is headed for Burke's trophy shelf as well.  

Nothing should prevent Burke from taking home the other five player of the year awards either. Since 2006, the AP player of the year has also won the Naismith, Wooden and Robertson awards. The two most recent winners, Anthony Davis and Jimmer Fredette, nabbed the Rupp trophy, too.

As far as Burke's credentials go, no one has put together a more impressive resume this season. The 6'0", 190-pounder averaged 18.8 points, 6.8 assists, 3.1 rebounds and 1.6 steals per game for the Wolverines.

Burke also finished No. 3 in the country in assist-to-turnover ratio (3.12).

Consistency has been the most impressive part of Burke's game this year, though. The former Ohio Mr. Basketball was the only player in the Big Ten to score more than 15 points in each league game.

Only four opponents managed to hold Burke below that mark this season, which is impressive to say the least. 

Those numbers are right on par with three of the last four point guards to win player of the year awards.

Jameer Nelson piled up 20.6 points, dished out 5.3 assists, grabbed 4.7 rebounds and notched 3.0 steals per contest with the St. Jospeh's Hawks during the 2003-04 campaign. Nelson won the Naismith, Wooden, Robertson and Rupp awards.

Jay Williams also swept the postseason awards in 2002. The former Duke Blue Devil recorded 21.3 points, 5.3 assists, 3.5 rebounds and 2.2 steals per game as a junior.

T.J. Ford managed to win the Naismith and Wooden Awards with a less impressive stat line than Burke's. Ford finished the 2002-03 season with averages of 15.0 points, 7.7 assists, 3.9 rebounds and 2.2 steals per contest for the Texas Longhorns.

In addition to having the statistical comparison on his side, two game-changing plays will make it tough for the voters to snub Burke.

With Michigan's season on the verge of falling apart against the Michigan State Spartans, Burke turned a sure loss one of the most important victories of the year. 

The Wolverines had lost three of their last five games and blew a nine-point lead in the final 4:36. Michigan State had the ball with the game tied at 56-56 and only 30 seconds remaining in regulation. As Keith Appling brought the ball across half-court, Burke got around him and stole the ball away. Burke finished the play off with a two-handed dunk to put Michigan out in front.

Thanks to Burke's heroics, the Wolverines held on to win a 58-57 decision. 

The Kansas Jayhawks were the unfortunate victims of another one of Burke's clutch moments. Michigan trailed Kansas by as many as 14 points in the Sweet 16, but Burke refused to lose.

Eight of Michigan's final 10 points in regulation came from Burke, including the game-tying three-pointer with less than five seconds to play. Burke scored the first four points in overtime as well to get the Wolverines into the Elite Eight.

Victor Oladipo of the Indiana Hoosiers and Otto Porter Jr. of the Georgetown Hoyas are in the hunt to steal some awards from Burke.

Porter and Oladipo have both turned in tremendous seasons, but neither can match Burke. Oladipo has only managed to score 13.6 points per game, dole out 2.1 assists, grab 6.3 rebounds and 2.2 steals per game. 

For the Hoosiers, though, Oladipo is just another cog in the wheel. Veteran players like Jordan Hulls and Christian Watford help anchor Indiana's lineup, while Cody Zeller is a dominant force in the post.

Meanwhile, Porter's inefficient efforts against the Syracuse Orange and Florida Gulf Coast Eagles cost Georgetown a chance to make a run in the Big East Conference and NCAA tournaments.

Burke has carried a team that starts three freshmen and one junior to the Final Four. Billy Donovan validated Burke's case with these comments after the Florida Gators' Elite Eight loss to Michigan:

"It's all a result of Burke...it's all a result of Burke," Donovan said, according to The Tennesseean. "Those guys, they do not have players that really are able to create for themselves. But what happens is because Burke is such a great scorer."

There is no player in college basketball this season that has been better than Burke. Here's to hoping all of the award voters have seen the same thing.


Follow me on Twitter: @Zach_Dirlam.  


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