Postscript: What Trey Burke’s return means to Michigan

Dylan Burkhardt
Michigan at Nebraska 8

Michigan’s season ended less than a month ago but the last three weeks have been nothing short of a whirlwind. First it was Evan Smotrycz, Carlton Brundidge and Colton Christian transferring out of the program. Then Trey Burke exploring his draft status followed by endless rumors that he was in the draft, out of the draft and everything in between. On Monday afternoon, the issue was put to rest as Burke announced his return. Michigan could still add a fifth year transfer or another recruit late in the game, but it’s finally safe to start peeking ahead to next season and examining the 2012-13 Wolverines with Trey Burke.

There’s little debate that point guard is one of, if not the, most important positions on the floor. Michigan’s last two seasons have taught us just that as Darius Morris and Trey Burke carried the Wolverine offense to its most efficient seasons in the last decade. Trey Burke is the most important player on the 2012-13 Michigan roster and that’s not up for debate. This isn’t just the case of replacing a great point guard with an average point guard, the Wolverines didn’t have another scholarship point guard.

Mitch McGary might have been a statement recruit when he committed last November but keeping Trey Burke for his sophomore season is a significantly more important feat.

Without Burke, Michigan was an NCAA tournament bubble team at best projected somewhere in the middle of the conference. With Burke, the Wolverines are a consensus top ten team in the preseason and should expect to compete for a second consecutive Big Ten Championship. I had trouble justifying Michigan’s preseason ranking a year ago. This year, Michigan’s on paper talent level backs up its ranking with ease.

John Beilein has finally assembled an impressive collection of front court talent. The possibilities when mixing and matching Tim Hardaway Jr., Glenn Robinson III, Mitch McGary, Jordan Morgan, Jon Horford, Matt Vogrich and Nik Stauskas are tantalizing. Big lineups, small lineups, three point centric lineups or lineups designed to attack in transition..

It remains to be seen how those minutes are best distributed at the two, three, four and five positions but there’s no question who will be playing 35 minutes per game at the point. That constant at the point guard is a precious reassurance that Michigan’s incoming, and returning, talent won’t go to waste and that the Wolverines are in steady hands.

Next season is going to be fun. This is easily the most talented roster that John Beilein has ever had and now that Burke is back, the Wolverines have their floor general. Sure there are questions. Michigan lacks proven depth at the off guard position, lost a pair of senior captains and will be relying on a number of players that have never played a college game. How high this team’s ceiling truly is remains to be seen – and will certainly be debated throughout the coming months – but Burke’s return means that the excitement is warranted.

On Burke’s decision…

On an individual level, this was the right decision for Burke and there’s no faulting his process. A little over a year ago he was named Mr. Basketball in the state of Ohio. A few weeks later I remember chatting with him and his dad in Akron about whether Darius Morris would return to Ann Arbor. He made it clear he hoped he would be back, giving him a year to play with Morris. The whirlwind over the next 12 months felt unprecedented. Morris would enter the draft and Burke would go from fringe top 100 player to co-Big Ten Freshman of the Year and a Freshman All-American.

I remember Burke rattling off a list of goals in one of his workout videos last summer. He talked about gaudy scoring and assist averages, all-conference accolades and winning championships. His game and personality are defined by an understated yet brash confidence but I don’t think anyone, even Trey, imagined a freshman year so successful on an individual (Freshman of the Year, Second Team All-American) and team (Big Ten Champions) level.

Burke, like every young basketball player, has an end goal in sight: the NBA. That’s not to be read as a knock, to doubt his love for Michigan, or anything else. It’s a simple fact of the matter. Suddenly, he thought he had the opportunity to achieve his dream and he looked long and hard at the opportunity. It’s tough to fault a kid for chasing his dream. At the end of the day, he took in all of the data from his parents, coaches and mentors and made what seems like the right choice. A fact that will be judged in the years to come. For now, draft gurus feel that Burke has a very real chance to emerge as a first round pick:

On Scholarships and Spike Albrecht’s Commitment…

Trey Burke said that he decided he was returning to Ann Arbor last Wednesday. John Beilein reiterated that Burke communicated with him every day throughout the process. Spike Albrecht began his official visit on Thursday and committed Friday night. Connecting between the dots, Beilein and his staff took Albrecht as a back-up point guard more than a desperate replacement for Trey Burke.

That move makes sense. Only John Shurna and Tim Frazier played more minutes in Big Ten games than Trey Burke last season and his primary back up, Stu Douglass, graduated. Albrecht’s name began buzzing on the internet in the last week or two but Michigan coaches have been watching him for nearly a month. He’s a solid fit because of his connections to the incoming class and the fact that he shouldn’t affect Michigan’s presumed point guard of the future, Derrick Walton.

If there’s anything that the last month has taught us, it’s that college basketball coaches simply have to keep recruiting. John Beilein mentioned that 40% of high major players transfer or declare for the NBA draft by the end of their sophomore season. That staggering statistic is the reason why it makes sense for Michigan to continue recruiting Amedeo Della Valle and why the Wolverines will continue to pursue prospects in the class of 2013. Things happen. Some situations work out too well and the lure of the NBA prevails. Other situations don’t work out and other opportunities prevail.

Late commitments are nothing new for Michigan. The Wolverines added Jon Horford and Colton Christian two seasons ago along with Max Bielfeldt last season. Not once have they prohibited the Wolverines from adding or recruiting prospects.

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  • “Downtown” Graham Brown

    I am now in excitement mode for the 12/13 season.  I really hope Beilein continues to go after Della Valle, as he seems like a very polished player who could add solid guard depth.  Everyone knows by now that he has offers from major programs, so I really do hope JB offers ADV, and I think he will.

  • longhorn_wolverine

    Good analysis of where we stand.  Next season, as long as there are no injuries, could be special.  BTW, is there any documentation about that 40% stat JB mentioned?  I wonder what it is in the Big Ten, because in looking at rosters it doesn’t seem to hold true, at least in the top-five teams.  The only teams where I’ve noticed such high turnover are Minnesota and Iowa.

  • ChocoJoe

    Trey returning and spike committing would mean less play time for della valle. That may influence his decision.

    • South Florida Maize Rage

       Arizona just took a player at ADV’s position as well so his offer may be rescinded from there. I think he’s more of a 2. Good fit for Blue.

    • I don’t think Della Valle is a true PG.  I think he’s a better fit at the 2, or even small-ball 3.

      With potential attrition, there’s no reason not to take a kid like Della Valle IMO

  • FLiPCiTyBLuE

    JB only offer’s IF you visit. The Michigan staff has been looking at ADV for months, even when they had no ship to offer. ADV has had quality options for months but stayed uncommitted in order to wait and see. 3 transfers later all of these dots aren’t hard to connect, IMO. ADV is visiting, JB will offer, and Amedeo Della Valle will become a Michigan Wolverine-right in Thad Motta’s face.

  • MusketRebellion

    With Trey Burke probably leaving after next year, and the uncertainty with Austin Hatch looming for the 2013 class, it looks more important now than ever for Beilein to keep pushing on the recruiting trail. It would be nice to see some 2014 guys come in, but with the success that Beilein has had recruiting at Michigan there’s no way for me to sit back and think that he won’t get things done. 

  • Quaint06

    The way I look at it is that I’m looking forward to this season and the next, and have been for a while. I think it will be FUN, because we’ll have mid-range shooting, some slashing, some rebounding and in-the-paint athleticism. I like watching that kind of game more than a perimeter game, so I’m excited. We should also have a team that gets along and has a good ethic and the Beilein system.
    Of course results are important, but I think that going into games, including those against the Indianas and North Carolinas and other top-10 teams we’ll meet as an even match rather than a dangerous underdog will feel good. Having a presence throughout the lineup, not just at guard, will feel good.
    Ask MSU, Duke, Missouri: there are a million things to keep a team from a Final 4 or even Elite 8; I of course don’t want us to flop in any tournaments, but obsessing over results can be heartbreaking, and I’m glad to have a team with a lot of weapons, one for whom overarchieving means a national title, not a 4 seed.

  • ShadyAftermath

    good read…can anyone give me any analysis on Max Bielfeldt? I know he red-shirted but do you guys see him getting any minutes next year behind Morgan, Horford & McGrary?

    • Quick Darshan

      The book on him is that while he’s undersized and relatively unathletic, he’s a good rebounder because of his hands and tenacity.  Also, he’s got a good midrange jumper so he could be a good pick and pop guy.

      My gut tells me that even if Evan came back he’d be fighting Bielfeldt for minutes.

      • ShadyAftermath


  • Mattski

    These “where we stand” posts have a helpful calming effect; this one feels nicely comprehensive. Appreciated. 

  • Judvare7533

    good analysis by Dylan as always and the Burke situation shows just how important recruiting is EVERY YEAR. Guys, don’t forget Monte Morris in 2013. This kid can flat out play and will be a great get for whatever school he goes too. 

    • kevin

      Monte said he isnt sure how he’d fit in with UM if he came

      • toblav

        So he is thinking about it, right.  Actually Coach Beilein’s players have more chances to use their strenghs than most.  Most coaches like defined roles that they recruit to and expect the players to execute.  Beilein is more take what they give you, which is to say, play the game.

  • Mattski

    Hey, Dylan: now that the smoke is clearing and the dead season has arrived, can we hope to see some of those wonderful individual player and team highlight videos like we did last year?

    • DingoBlue

      I was hoping this earlier today when reading this post.  Here’s hoping the answer is yes.

  • Erik_in_Dayton

    This is the best new for Michigan basketball in a long time.  I’m really happy for Coach Beilein.  It was time that he caught a break. 

    • John Smith

      I agree, he is a great coach.

  • David

    Dylan, thanks for giving a very rational, player-centric view on Trey’s decision. I was appalled by the ignorant comments I read on MGoBlog over the past week about Trey “not being a Michigan man,” about Darius and Manny “making horrible decisions,” and so forth.

    As Michigan fans, we need to be supportive of the players who come in and not have blind allegiance to the team’s performance. In other words, as Michigan basketball fans, we need to be Trey Burke fans first — even if he decides to leave for the NBA.

    So, now that Trey has decided to stay, the big question for me is who will play the 4 next year? I think we miss Evan a lot. Do we have a stretch 4 on the team? Does GRIII play 4 or do we go with two posts?

    • Billiam

      I presume a little bit of both.  We could have two posts, GRIII, or even THJ (if he keeps on growing) play the 4 for periods of time.  I’d still bank on having 2 posts in more than not, but what do I know?

    • Lightness

      Do you ever read the criticisms of players (and their play) who are actually on the team?  I have a far bigger problem with that.  I’m a Michigan fan first.  That means I root hardest for the kids on the team and I root longest for those who stay 4 years. It doesn’t mean I root against those who leave early.

      • David

        Yes, I read those criticisms as well.

        Did you read the backlash against Trey? Do I need to link to many examples? Maybe you weren’t one of the people rooting against him, but lots of other fans were.

        Trey Burke owes you, generic Michigan fan, absolutely nothing. Most Michigan fans only care about him because he was able to deliver wins to some college team with which they’ve developed an irrational obsession.

        That’s why I respect Dylan’s very fair assessment of the process and the obvious respect he gave Trey in this post.

    • Aowen880608

      we have a power forward.we dont need a stretch 4.jordan morgan is a power forward.we need to  play big…this will be the starting five next year..
      1.trey burke-eso-albr
      2.tim hardaway-matt vol-nick stau
      3.glen robinson-nick stau
      4.jordan morgan-max bief
      5.mitch mcgary-horford.
      we need to play real basketball.playing small is over at michigan.we only did that because we had 2.believe me beilen didnt have novak playing the four because he wanted was a reason evan smot left the program.beilen is going big and smot just dont fit in.the transition will make michigan a lot better.michigan is back.

      • Guest

         That does not make any sense whatsoever with regards to Smotrycz.  He’s a classic JB player who fit his system.

        • Aowen880608

          he is a classic beilen player.but beilen is changing things this year.and if you cant rebound and play defense we dont need you.

  • Johnsmith841

    Glad to see Trey back!!  Team will be awesome next year!!!

  • kevine

    What exactly do NBA scouts think Trey can improve on to make his draft stock jump?  Is it just that there’s a weaker PG class?  It’s hard to imagine Trey boosting his scoring numbers with the influx of offense anticipated next year.  His assist numbers should go up.  I guess I find it difficult to believe that he will have that much more of a successful year to boost his draft stock.  

    • longhorn_wolverine

      Next year looks like a much weaker point guard class…of course, who knows if there are other Ricky Rubios in Europe that could make the jump.