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In most games, there is one player matchup that excites fans. In Michigan's game against South Dakota State, it is the matchup between the point guards. Trey Burke is a virtual lock for pretty much every All-American list and is considered a serious contender for the Naismith and Wooden awards. Nate Wolters is the energetic leader of the Jackrabbits and has a stat-line (22.7 points, 5.6 rebounds, 5.8 assists, 38 minutes) that leaves many spectators wide-eyed. The two players will now face-off in what will likely end of one of their careers.
For a team like Michigan that has struggled on defense at points, tipping off against Nate Wolters is not exactly thrilling. Similar to Burke, he is a player that is consistent and is almost always the team leader in scoring. He's also done very well against teams like New Mexico (28 pts), Alabama (30 pts), and Oakland (36 pts). He is going to score and do it in a variety of ways. He can shoot (39% from outside the arch), he can drive the basket, and he can light it up in transition with a nice crossover move. The only thing Michigan can hope to do is either limit Wolters' teammates or force him into mistakes. Even if Wolters puts up one of his insane performances like he did against IPFW (53 pts), he is still going to need contributions from other players to win the game.
Michigan will likely look to defend him with Burke. As much attention as Burke gets offensively, he has actually blossomed into a pretty good defender. He isn't going to shut down guys, but he also isn't typically the guy that gets fans cursing in their seats after an opponent scores. Michigan is going to be doing a lot of switching and it won't be surprising to see Hardaway on Wolters for long segments as well. Hardaway has improved tremendously on the defensive side and virtually shuts down most of the guys he defends. Watch for this to happen in transition and if Wolters starts lighting up the scoreboard.
This is the area where Burke should get a tremendous advantage. His numbers have been tremendously consistent and he has the ability to not only score himself, but also make the difficult pass to his teammate and hit open shots. Arguably, Burke's best ability is how he gets into the lane and beats out defenders. When he is doing this effectively, he is practically unstoppable since defenders have such trouble stopping him at the basket. He can make an entire defense collapse instantly and still get through for a basket. Plus, he can make the pass outside without turning the ball over if he isn't finding an opening. It's essentially like having a defense call a full house blitz and the quarterback gets the ball out just fast enough to find the open receiver. The defense is setup to stop Burke, but he's still able to make the play.
The other major advantage for Burke is that he's put up most of his numbers against some of the best defenses and defenders in the game. While Wolters was putting up numbers on South Dakota (#258 in KenPom), Burke was scoring against Aaron Craft and the #6 rated defense on KenPom. Wolters is certainly not a terrible defender, but he is not a good enough of a defender to matchup with Burke on his own. South Dakota State is likely going to hedge out their big men, double team Burke, and collapse the defense anytime he goes for the lane. This is going to leave a lot of things open for Michigan and if Burke can hit a few shots and make a few passes, he and Michigan are probably going to put up some big numbers.
On paper, it seems likely that most will call this a pretty even matchup on Thursday, but when the game is actually played, Burke has a good shot at playing a better than Wolters. Wolters can put up big numbers, but will he be able to slow down Burke enough defensively to stop him? It seems unlikely. Burke may not be a shut down defender, but he is a better defender than Wolters and if Michigan also uses Hardaway to supplement his defense, Wolters should at least be partically limited. It's going to be an exciting matchup for both squads and will likely end at least one great player's college career.
Here we are; the NCAA tournament. Michigan comes in playing .500 ball in their last 12 games. Can they start a run against the dangerous Jackrabbits?
Basketball Analyst For BTPowerhouse & Wolverine 247 - Follow me on Twitter: https://twitter.com/tbeindit
We need to frustrate this kid, early and often. He's got swagger and talent, but we need to clamp down and force him into turnovers and missed shots.
Thanks Tom. Your scouting report reminds me of hearing my dad talk about when Michigan played David Robinson and Navy in the late 80's... They basically let Robinson do whatever he wanted, but controlled the rest of the team and came out with the W.
I thought we'd use that strategy against msu in the first game this year. That plan went to hell in a hand basket in a quick hurry.
BUT, revenge was eventually ours.....again.
Haha. I think the difference is MSU has 4-5 guys that can gut you where SD State arguably only has 1 guy that can do major damage. There certainly have capable players, but he's the one that puts up red flags
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