Michigan State v Michigan

This year’s Player of the Year race is not wide-open. It’s Trey Burke.

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Mike Rothstein of ESPN.com released his latest installment of the Player of the Year straw poll, and once again, Michigan point guard Trey Burke sits at the top.

He received 30 first-place votes and was named on 49 of the 64 ballots, which was the most out of anyone.

But here’s where I get confused: what are those other 15 people thinking? Because as of today — and with all due respect to Otto Porter, Victor Oladipo, Doug McDermott and Kelly Olynyk — I do not think that this vote is really all that close.

Trey Burke is the National Player of the Year.

Let’s start with the ‘eye test’. Burke is averaging 19.1 points, 6.9 assists and just 1.9 turnovers with shooting splits of 49.2/38.4/79.4 for a top ten team. He’s doing so as the primary ball-handler and playmaker on a team chock-full of jump-shooters and big men who can’t do much more than roll after setting a screen and crash the offensive glass. He’s the leader on a team that is just as young as Kentucky’s national title-winning squad was last season.

That’s impressive, right?

Now consider this: his offensive rating (127.6) leads the country, according to Kenpom.com, for players that use at least 28% of their team’s possessions (he’s at 28.6%) while they’re on the floor. Burke is on the floor for more than 35 minutes per game. His numbers are, essentially, on par with what Jordan Taylor did in 2011 — Taylor had a 127.6 offensive rating while using 27.4% of the Badgers possession while logging similar minutes for a team that had more veterans but wasn’t as good as this year’s Michigan team — a season that was lauded as the second-best in the efficiency era.

I know, Kelly Olynyk and Doug McDermott have been almost as efficient as Burke while using just as many possessions and playing just as many minutes. But Olynyk is a 7-footer playing in the WCC, not a 6-footer playing in the Big Ten. And McDermott recently watched was his Creighton struggled through six losses in 11 games, which was nearly enough to drop them from the top 15 to the bubble.

Oh, and I know the stat-guys hate bringing up “clutchness” or “late-game execution”, but Burke has been the guy making the plays for Michigan down the stretch all season long. At the end of the day, winning games is what matters, and Burke has ensured that the Wolverines have won some games they may not have deserved to win.

Trey Burke is the most valuable player in the country playing on a top ten team that can win a share of the Big Ten regular season title on Sunday, and he just so happens to be having a historically significant season in terms of efficiency.

Why is there a debate again?

You can find Rob on twitter @RobDauster.

No. 5 Xavier stumbles at Creighton, lose 70-54

Creighton's Cole Huff (13) and Toby Hegner, left, guard Xavier's Jalen Reynolds (1) during the first half of an NCAA college basketball game in Omaha, Neb., Tuesday, Feb. 9, 2016. (AP Photo/Nati Harnik)
(AP Photo/Nati Harnik)
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Mo Watson went for a career-high 32 points, seven boards and five assists as Creighton jumped out to an early 21-4 lead and never looked back, beating No. 5 Xavier, 70-54, in Omaha on Tuesday night.

 

It was a massive win for the Bluejays, who still have an outside shot at earning an at-large bid this season. (We wrote all about that here.)

As well as Creighton played, the bigger story here may actually be Xavier, who lost for just the third time this season; they had been the only top ten team with just two losses to their name.

The issue for the Musketeers tonight was two-fold, but they both are a symptom of what could be an issue down the road for this team: Xavier doesn’t really have a true point guard.

They certainly didn’t have anyone to stop Watson. By the second half, they had essentially asked Reynolds, who was playing the middle of their 1-3-1 zone to matchup with Watson. It was weird but was actually somewhat effective.

The Musketeers also started out ice cold from the floor, missing 11 of their first 13 shots, and those misses led to leak outs from Bluejays, who got layups and open threes in transition to build that 17 point lead. Once Xavier got behind, it turned into scramble mode for Xavier. They forced shots early in the clock and didn’t start pounding the ball into the paint until it was too late. What they needed was someone to be able to settle things, to ensure that offensive would get initiated and sets would get executed when they were able to get the lead down to single digits.

That 1-for-19 shooting performance from beyond the arc certainly didn’t help matters, and neither did the fact that they got just nine field goals all game from players not named James Farr or Jalen Reynolds. The most frustrating part for head coach Chris Mack? They had good shots. It wasn’t like Creighton took away everything that Xavier wanted to do.

The kids just had one of those nights where nothing went down.

Those happen.

And when you combine them with a total inability to contain the opposing team’s point guard, what you get is a 16 point loss on the road against a team that was desperate to get a good win.

Gill’s 16, ‘D’ lead No. 7 Virginia past Virginia Tech, 67-49

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AP Photo/Andrew Shurtleff
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CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. (AP) Anthony Gill scored 16 points and No. 7 Virginia turned the tables on state rival Virginia Tech with a 67-49 victory Tuesday night, the Cavaliers’ seventh straight.

Isaiah Wilkins added a career-best 14 points and Malcolm Brogdon had 12 for the Cavaliers (20-4, 9-3 Atlantic Coast Conference). Virginia avenged a 70-68 loss to the Hokies in Blacksburg on Jan. 4 in what rates as their worst performance of the season, and extended their winning streak at John Paul Jones Arena to 17 games.

Freshman Justin Robinson scored 16 points and classmate Chris Clarke had 11 in his first action for the Hokies (13-12, 5-7) since breaking his right foot in late December. Virginia Tech’s top two scorers, Zach LeDay (16.0 ppg) and Seth Allen (14.5), were limited to seven and six points, respectively, in part because of foul trouble.

Virginia coach Tony Bennett said his team wasn’t ready to play when it lost to the Hokies earlier, but they have been surging of late and were focused from the outset. They were credited with assists and 14 of their first 15 baskets and forced 10 turnovers in the first half; they forced just eight in the last meeting of the teams.

For most of the game, the Hokies had more turnovers than field goals.

The Cavaliers led 32-20 at halftime and extended their advantage to 47-29 on a three-point play by Mike Tobey with 12:11 remaining. It capped an 11-4 run for Virginia, during which LeDay was whistled for his fourth foul. On Virginia’s next trip down court, it got the ball to Gill inside and LeDay basically backed off and let him score, quickly earning a spot on the bench.

The Cavaliers’ lead never dipped into single digits again.

The Hokies had just eight turnovers and outscored Virginia 26-6 off turnovers in their first meeting. This time, Virginia Tech had 10 turnovers by halftime and the Cavaliers had already turned them into 15 points. Virginia Tech finished with 16 field goals and 15 turnovers.

Already leading 9-6, Virginia got scoring from eight players in a 23-8 run that spanned about 8 1/2 minutes.

Gill started it with a dunk, Brogdon hit a 3-pointer, London Perrantes had a four-point play and Wilkins finished it with two free throws, giving the Cavaliers a 32-14 lead with 2:06 left in the half. They didn’t score again, and the Hokies closed within 32-20 by halftime.

TIP-INS

Virginia Tech: The Hokies shot 57.1 percent (15 of 26) from the field in the second half of their 70-68 victory against Virginia on Jan. 4. … Virginia Tech’s starting five totaled four points in the first half.

Virginia: The Cavaliers have held four consecutive opponents to 50 points or fewer.

UP NEXT

Virginia Tech plays at No. 12 Miami next Wednesday.

Virginia plays at Duke on Saturday.

Follow Hank on Twitter: http://www.twitter.com/hankkurzjr

The AP’s college basketball page: http://www.collegebasketball.ap.org