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Record: 7264 (3/12/2012)


Quick Thoughts: Burke's Legacy

  • Trey Burke has been really good. Seriously. And not just a good player on Michigan's team or in the Big Ten, but a really good player even in terms of the nation. Right now, he's in the running for Player of the Year and if it weren't for Victor Oladipo (Indiana), he might have run away with it already. He's averaging 18.9 points, 6.9 assists, and 3.1 rebounds per game. He has become this team's leader and showed it on Sunday when he made two steals in the final possessions of the game to defeat MSU.

    The common assumption is that Burke will jump to the NBA after this season as he nearly did last year. But where would this leave Burke's legacy at Michigan? This is an interesting question. Burke is undeniably one of the most talented players in Michigan basketball history and if he finishes the season as most expect, he could arguably be the best sophomore in Michigan history. However, is that enough to cement his legacy in Ann Arbor, especially when he will be compared to many players that were in Ann Arbor for 3+ years? For instance, every player who has been honored in the raftors of Crisler Arena played at least three seasons in Ann Arbor. On top of this, even 4 members of the Fab Five stayed at least three seasons at Michigan.

    This is in no way a knock on Burke's contributions. He has been great and will have numerous contributions when he graduates, but it is significant because it makes it harder for Burke's career to hold up favorably against other Wolverines. With fewer years, he has had less time to contribute and therefore, he won't have the same numbers. To flush this out a little bit, let's compare Burke to one of Michigan's best point guards of the past: Jalen Rose. Rose's jersey is obviously not retired due to the Fab Five scandal, but none of the players with retired jerseys are comparable to Burke since they played a different position. Given this, let's compare Rose to Burke.

    On a single season basis, Rose's closest year to Burke was his junior season when he averaged 19.9 points, 3.9 assists, and 5.7 rebounds per game. This is 1 more point than Burke averages this year and 2.6 more rebounds, but 3 fewer assists and 0.8 more turnovers per game. One could make a strong argument that Burke's season has been better than Rose's junior season using these stats accompanied with a comparison between their schedules.. There were four Big Ten teams ranked at the end of 1994 season and one in the top 10. Right now, the Big Ten has five teams ranked and three in the top 10. Given this, Burke's numbers hold up pretty well against Rose's numbers.

    However, even if one assumes that Burke's current season is better than Jalen's junior season, there is no way that one can make the argument that Burke's freshman season beat Jalen's freshman and sophomore seasons. Burke may have the best season by a point guard in Michigan history and may even be the best point guard in Michigan history, but if he's only around for two seasons, it's hard to match the contributions made by other players to the Michigan program. This is what makes this such a difficult question. Everything argues that Burke deserves to go down as one of the best Michigan basketball players in history, but due to the current NBA Draft situation, he may not receive that honor.

    Just take a look at Burke's career numbers. Burke currently has 1,052 career points and 357 assists. This is pretty crazy considering that Burke's still a sophomore. However, he still needs 334 points to get in the top 25 in career points and 374 assists to lead Michigan in career assists. Right now, if you use Burke's averages for the rest of the year, he will end up anywhere from 6th to 9th in career Michigan assists and outside the top 25 in career points. He would still have great career numbers, but enough to put him into that elite category of players? Not quite. His level of play merits it, but the time limits his contributions to Michigan. Putting him into that elite category requires projecting similar numbers in future years, which is always questionable logic.

    Trey Burke is a great player and is having one of the best single seasons in Michigan basketball history. He will certainly have a great legacy in Ann Arbor, but it will ultimately be limited by his short stay. If he would have even stayed 3 years, he probably would be getting a banner in Crisler at some point in the future. Unfortunately, with the way the NBA sets up its draft, he will probably be jumping early. Burke is a great player and will forever be loved by Michigan fans and his legacy will likely show this, but it's difficult to argue he's truly one of the elite players in program history given his short stay. Hopefully he gets something special in March to put on top of his career. It would sure be hard to argue against a Wooden award.


    Basketball Analyst For BTPowerhouse & Wolverine 247 - Follow me on Twitter:

  • Ducksworth

    If he stays for his junior year (won't happen), he could cement himself as possibly the greatest player in Michigan basketball history and have his number retired.

    If he leaves after this season, which he will, he'll be remembered as a very good player who had one of the greatest individual seasons in Michigan basketball. And I see him doing really well in the NBA and being a great representation of UM like Brady.

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  • First off that was not a quick thought! That was a mini novel lol

    A POY award or a final four/national championship run and I would hang Burkes number in the rafters.

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  • Great writeup, I hope Burke gets something to memorialize him, he deserves it. I really hate the NBA's policies for the draft.

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  • Unless he takes us to a Final 4 he will just be a very good player. If he wants to have his name in the rafters at Crisler then he needs to come back for his junior season.

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  • Haha sorry! I'm just kind of using the "quick thoughts" title as more of a series of posts than as a description, but hopefully it was still enjoyable haha.

    It's an interesting debate for sure I actually debated with someone for a good amount of time last summer regarding a similar topic relating to Burke and Craft. Is high success for a short period of time better than a longer career with perhaps a little less individual success? Burke is clearly a better overall player than Craft, but is 2 years of Burke better for a program than 4 years of Craft? Obviously, it's a completely different discussion, but I thought it was an interesting concept to use in the context of Michigan basketball.

    I think if Burke wins the player of the year and takes Michigan on a deep tourney run, there's at least a pretty solid argument about doing something long lasting for him. Hopefully he gets at least some recognition in the future for what a great player he has been for Michigan.

    Basketball Analyst For BTPowerhouse & Wolverine 247 - Follow me on Twitter:

  • lol Just giving you a hard time and yes it was enjoyable.

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  • I think it's too early for this.

    I would've posted this after the conclusion of the B1G Regular Season and the B1G Tournament but before the start of the NCAAT.

    Hence, I'll revisit this thread after the first two things are history.

    However, I want to point out that Burke is still in the discussion for B1G Player of the Year and National Player of the Year. Depending on what happens in the conference slate and the conference tournament Burke could become the favorite or fade into the background.

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  • yea right, like Im even going to read any of this

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  • Man, there's a lot here. I'll remember him fondly. If he returns I think it could turn into love. His turnover ratio is unbelievable and "may" make him a better pure point than Rose but I still love me some Fab 5.

  • I think after last night's game with Oladipo disappearing in big moments, Burke has taken a stranglehold on B1G POY, you agree?


  • I'm somewhere around this. I think POY or national championship would earn it in my eyes. I wouldn't retire it just yet - he needs a defining achievement. Other than that, he has it all - scoring, passing, leadership, attitude, clutch play, Big Ten title in his pocket, stays out of trouble off the court.

    In the 80s, Glen Rice was expected to stay 4 years. In the 2010s, if Burke is still around senior year, scouts will be wondering what is wrong with him. It's tough to punish Burke for being born later than the guys that have their jerseys retired, in my eyes.