John Beilein has a tactical mystery to solve. Should his Wolverines play small, with four shooters on the perimeter, as his teams have done throughout his five seasons in Ann Arbor? Or should he alter his three-point-dependent scheme to accommodate two quality posts (6'10", four-star freshman Mitch McGary and 6'8" junior Jordan Morgan)? Beilein has the luxury of trying both strategies, since he has a floor general who's flexible enough to run any offense.
Trey Burke arrived at Michigan last season as a buzzless three-star prospect—and proceeded to lead the Wolverines to a share of their first Big Ten title since 1986. "He was a point guard in training," says Beilein, "so we tried to get him the ball in space and just let him play." Burke averaged 14.8 points in a stripped-down version of Beilein's spread, in which just 2.6% of the team's possessions were post-ups and 34.6% of Burke's possessions were pick-and-rolls, according to Synergy Sports Technology.
Even though Burke was Ohio's Mr. Basketball as a high school senior, he was largely unheralded as a recruit because of what he did for his first three years at Northland High in Columbus: serve as Jared Sullinger's sidekick. Before his conversion to pick-and-roll star, Burke was a post-feeder for a future Ohio State All-America and the Celtics' first-round pick. "My job," Burke says, "was to get him the ball and let him get buckets."
After flirting with the NBA draft—he was projected to be a second-round pick—Burke is poised for an All-America season of his own. He knows that defenses won't be able to key on him as much—junior guard Tim Hardaway Jr. and freshman forwards McGary and Glenn Robinson III give Michigan three other offensive options. He also won't have to play 36.1 minutes per game, thanks to freshman Spike Albrecht. Burke doesn't know what the offense will look like in March; it will continuously evolve. Fortunately for his team, he is a point guard who is prepared for anything.
ROUND OF 32
ROUND OF 64
Projected Starting Five
COACH John Beilein (6th season)
2011--12 RECORD 24--10
BIG TEN 13--5 (T-1st)
WHAT'S BACK Minutes: 56.5% Points: 62.5% Rebounds: 56.6%
*High school stats
36.5 PERCENTAGE of Wolverines points that came on threes in '11--12, the fifth highest of any major-conference team. Trey Burke and Tim Hardaway Jr. combined for 39.9% of those three-pointers.
TREY BURKE Though he entered without much acclaim, the point guard exited '11--12 with Big Ten freshman of the year honors.