Iowa  v Michigan

Trey Burke: National Player of the Year? More likely than you think

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With all due respect to Mason Plumlee and Doug McDermott, if the season ended today, I think that I would pick Michigan point guard Trey Burke as the National Player of the Year.

The numbers alone speak for themselves. Burke averages 18.2 points and 7.5 assists while turning the ball over just 1.9 times per game and shooting 54.6% from the floor, 40.6% from three and 76.7% from the free throw line. His offensive rating (136.4) is far and away the best for any guard in the country that uses at least 24% of his team’s possessions. He’s doing all this for the team ranked No. 2 in the country that is still undefeated in the second week of January and the favorite to win the nation’s strongest conference.

I don’t need to write anything else here, and that should be enough to at least convince you that Burke deserves heavy consideration for the award.

But what that doesn’t quite tell you is just how deadly Michigan has become on the offensive end of the floor. They’ve scored 189 points on just 136 possessions in two games in Big Ten play, which equals 1.39 PPP. They are seventh in the country in total points per game despite being 251st in the country in possessions per game. Not only are they one of the ten best three-point shooting teams in the country at 41.0%, but they actually lead the nation in shooting from inside the arc at 58.0%.

And much of that credit has to fall squarely on the shoulders of the man that has the ball in his hands the majority of the time for the Wolverines.

“I definitely see myself as a leader this year,” Burke told USA Today. “Even though I only have one year under my belt, I feel like the team respects me enough to listen to what I have to say if I do have something to say. I feel like I have the qualities to be a leader and I can lead this team not just by playing my position — though obviously I have to be, playing point guard — but by encouraging guys.

“I have what it takes to be a leader and lead this team to where we want to go.”

Burke for National Player of the Year is far from a lock. Michigan hasn’t exactly played the toughest schedule in the country — although part of the reason for that is they made good teams like Kansas State, NC State and Pitt look rather pedestrian — and the heart of Big Ten play is going to be an absolute grind. There is no way that the Wolverines are going to be able to continue to play at this high of a level when they are matched up with Indiana and Minnesota instead of Iowa and Northwestern.

But even if John Beilein’s club comes back to earth, Burke has to be a favorite for National Player of the Year.

He’s the engine that powers the nation’s best offense, and a major reason that the Wolverine freshmen have been this effective early in the season.

You can find Rob on twitter @RobDauster.

Gonzaga’s NCAA tournament chances take a major blow in loss to No. 16 SMU

SMU guard Nic Moore (11) shoots over Gonzaga forward Kyle Wiltjer (33) during the first half of an NCAA college basketball game, Saturday, Feb. 13, 2016, in Dallas. (AP Photo/Jim Cowsert)
(AP Photo/Jim Cowsert)
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Nic Moore scored 18 of his 25 points in the second half and added 11 assists as No. 16 SMU knocked off Gonzaga in Moody Coliseum on Saturday night, 69-60.

The Zags got 20 points and 16 boards from Domantas Sabonis, but Kyle Wiltjer scored just four points and shot 2-for-17 from the floor.

It wasn’t pretty.

And it may have been the end of Gonzaga’s NCAA tournament hopes.

Entering Saturday, the Zags had an RPI in the mid-60s, enough to keep them in the bubble conversation but not enough to make them anything more than a team that will be projected to end up on the cut-line.

The issue is a complete lack of quality wins on their résumé. Gonzaga beat UConn in the Bahamas. That’s a borderline top 50 win. They beat Washington, another borderline top 50 win. Beyond that? They swept Pepperdine, beat Tennessee and own a win over Montana. None of those are top 100 wins, and that’s why the SMU game was such a big deal. The Mustangs are a top 25 team. This was a road game. This win was the kind of thing that the Zags could pin at the top of their profile.

But Wiltjer didn’t show up, the Zags had no answer for Moore and they’ll head back to Spokane needing, in all likelihood, to win the WCC’s automatic bid if they want to dance.

POSTERIZED: Cal’s Jaylen Brown has his dunk contest entry

California's Jaylen Brown lays up a shot against Oregon State in the second half of an NCAA college basketball game Saturday, Feb. 13, 2016, in Berkeley, Calif. (AP Photo/Ben Margot)
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Cal picked up a big win over Oregon State in Haas Pavilion on Saturday night, and the exclamation point was this emphatic dunk from Jaylen Brown: