Luke Winn names Trey Burke one of the top five sophomore returnees in college basketball:

Staying Impact: Burke was the nation’s best freshman point guard last season; having him back alongside Tim Hardaway Jr. in the Wolverines’ backcourt should give them an outside shot at making a Final Four run. They were the team’s two highest possession-users by a wide margin in 2011-12, and figure to dominate the ball again, even with the addition of elite freshman power forward Mitch McGary, the highest-ranked recruit ever to sign with coach John Beilein.

Had He Left: Michigan survived the early departure of its previous point guard, Darius Morris, when Burke emerged as a star. The Wolverines weren’t going to repeat that feat; they also lost their other primary ballhandler, senior Stu Douglass, and would have been stuck with late-signing freshman Spike Albrecht, a three-star prospect from Massachusetts, taking over the offense. They would have been a middle-of-the-pack Big Ten team … and Burke may not have been a first-round pick, either. Him returning is the best-case scenario for all parties other than Michigan opponents.

Next Step: Like Indiana, the Wolverines need to lock down on D to become a real title contender. Burke was part of a defense that ranked 60th overall, including 289th in steals and 208th at defending the three-point line. His defense will have to progress, and on offense, will he be able to draw more fouls off of penetration? Beilien’s five-out offenses have historically been near the bottom of Division I in free throw rate, but Burke is quick enough with the ball that he should be able to post a higher rate than 30.6. He averaged just 4.1 free-throw attempts per 40 minutes last season.

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