Just four days ago, the Big Ten announced that its freshman of the year award was being given to two separate players—Indiana’s Cody Zeller took home the coaches award and Michigan’s Trey Burke got the media vote.
But after another eye-popping performance in Michigan’s win over Minnesota in the second-round of the Big Ten tournament, those coaches may want to re-think their decision.
Burke scored 30 points in the Wolverines’ 73-69 win over the Gophers, avoiding an upset that would have put a dent in their chances at securing a top-3 seed in this year’s NCAA Tournament.
But the mere fact that the Wolverines are in contention for a top-3 seed is a testament to Burke’s superb play all season.
Coming into this season, there were questions over Michigan’s viability as a contender in the Big Ten, which is widely regarded as the best college basketball conference in the nation. The loss of Darius Morris—who declared for the NBA draft after his sophomore season in Ann Arbor and was recently assigned to the Los Angeles’ Lakers D-League affiliate—was thought to be a crippling blow for a Wolverines’ squad who had nothing to rely on but a freshman from Columbus. A freshman that was often overlooked by his “better” teammate, Jared Sullinger.
Look what that freshman has become. With Burke running the show, the Wolverines played their way to a share of the Conference title, marking the first time Michigan has called itself a champion in basketball since the 1985-1986 season.
Wolverines’ fans are no longer talking about their departed star because Burke has been just as good. Check that, he’s been even better.
The freshman has turned a group of good shooters (Stu Douglass, Zack Novak, Matt Vogrich), average post players (Jordan Morgan, Evan Smotrycz) and one decent wing scorer (Tim Hardaway Jr.) into one of the best teams in the country and a legitimate threat to make a deep run in the NCAA Tournament.
Whether the coaches believe it or not, Burke is the best freshman in this conference. And after last night’s performance, the argument can be made that he’s the best overall player. Move over, Draymond Green.
Chris Johnson is a sports writer for The Daily Northwestern. He is also the Michigan beat writer for bigtenorbust.com and a writer for WildcatReport.com (Northwestern Rivals). Follow him @chrisdjohnsonn. contact: firstname.lastname@example.orgFollow paulmbanks