Originally posted on The Sports Bank  |  Last updated 3/22/12

When Michigan fell to 13-seeded Ohio in the first round of the NCAA Tournament on Thursday, its quest for its first Sweet 16 appearance since 1994 was definitively lost, but the Wolverines may be on the verge of suffering an even bigger loss in the near future.

Freshman point guard Trey Burke, who led the Wolverines in scoring (14.8 ppg) and assists (4.6 apg), is considering entering the NBA draft, according to TheWolverine.com. According to his father, Benji Burke, two of the major factors weighing heavily in his decision are the way elevated his play at the end of the season as well as the relatively weak pool of point guards in this year’s draft class.

To add to what has already been a pretty bad month in Ann Arbor, there’s this news: coach John Beilein announced yesterday that sophomore forwards Evan Smotrycz and Colton Christian as well as freshman guard Carlton Bundridge have decided to transfer. While the loss of Smotrycz will hurt the Wolverines’ frontcourt depth in the future, the more pressing issue at hand is the possibility that we have seen Burke play his last game in a Michigan uniform.

The main reason that Beilein was able to overachieve with an average group of players this season was the unexpected contributions he got from Burke. From nonconference play all the way through the Big Ten tournament, the Big Ten co-Freshman of the year was consistently the Wolverines’ best player.

While I’m fairly certain that Burke would thrive as a point guard at the next level, he would only benefit from staying at school at least one more year.

Towards the end of the season, Burke consistently elevated his play–he scored a combined 70 points in a three-game stretch against Illinois, Penn State and Indiana. But when matched up against relentless, athletic perimeter defenders, Burke struggled.

Guarded by Ohio State point guard Aaron Craft in the Big Ten tournament semifinal, Burke was essentially taken out of the game. He finished with just five points on 1-11 shooting. Michigan’s next game was their NCAA Tournament loss against Ohio. Burke was bested by Bobcats’ guard D.J. Cooper, who forced the Wolverines’ freshman phenom into an inefficient 5-for-15 shooting night.

Both Craft and Cooper are elite on-ball defenders. But in the NBA, Burke is going to go up against defenders of that caliber on a nightly basis.

Judging by his final two performances, Burke is not yet ready to take on take on that challenge. The talent is there, and he has the potential to become one of the best players in the nation. He just needs time to develop into the All-American caliber player that he can and will be–if he decides to stay, that is.

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: christopherjohnson2015@u.northwestern.edu

 

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