We've had a few days off from basketball after the stretch that won't be named and the barely-beat-Penn-State game that no one really wants to talk about again, and in case you forgot: Trey Burke is really, really good. Like, once in a generation point guard good. Michigan's win against Illinois is just another in a long line of games that proves this very point.
Burke finished with 26 points on 11 (!) shots*, eight assists, and three rebounds. Turnovers? One.
Excuse me while I pick my jaw up off the floor.
Trey Burke is playing basketball at its most entertaining: a perfect harmony of uptempo facilitator, deadeye shooter, and supremely confident floor general. Michigan needed every bit of it in the win against Illinois. The Illini led early -- by as much as eight -- but Michigan tied it going into the half (no, Brandon Paul's garbage bank jumper doesn't count in the reality I live in).
Then the second half started, and Burke began to exert control. Burke had his hand in three of the first four baskets of the second half (a layup, a three, and an assist to McGary) Things continued back and forth until the TV timeout with seven and a half minutes left. Then Burke went Burke. Hardaway layup; assist by Burke. Burke layup; assist by THJ. LeVert three; guess who that pass came from. Michigan was suddenly up 12 and that was pretty much that.
You have four regular season games of Trey Burke left in a Michigan uniform. Two are road games against the bottom of the Big Ten. Two are home games against top five teams to (possibly) determine who wins the Big Ten.
Don't look away. Don't you dare look away.
GRIII missed all three of his shots from deep, but was 5-6 inside the arc with three rebounds. Meanwhile, Stauskas was 0-5 from the floor with four of those misses coming from deep. Not a great game from Michigan's two premiere freshmen, but it was made up for because of...
Caris LeVert, who is making me more and more glad that he didn't go to Ohio and instead joined this class. He was all over the defensive end of the floor, made two threes on three tries, added two free throws, and he played 16 big minutes. The better he gets, the more pressure is taken off Michigan's other two freshmen wings.
THJ still isn't shooting the ball particularly well (4/11 and 1/4 from deep), but he hit four free throws on five attempts, added seven rebounds as well as three assists. This is the difference between Tim last year and this year: when his offense isn't 100 percent he can still do a lot to help the team. That wasn't always the case.
Jordan Morgan seems to be playing healthier, which is a good thing for Michigan's chances down the stretch. He provides the steady, disciplined Ying to McGary's chaotic Yang (or something, I'm not much when it comes to eastern philosophy -- something my Arts & Letters of China prof would probably shake her head at). Michigan needs both bigs to be playing at a high level by next weekend..
Michigan travels to Penn State Wednesday to avenge its poor defensive performance from last week. Then, its time to prep for a visit from Sparty. Hold on to your hats, its going to be one helluva ride these next two weeks.
*(Brian at MGoBlog uses the whole "x points on y shots" as a quick and easy metric, and I can see why. Something like this absolutely screams awesome game in the same way 10 points on 18 shots screams ugh.)