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Title game loss shouldn’t cloud Trey Burke’s amazing college career

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ATLANTA — Trey Burke is leaving Atlanta with plenty of hardware.

The uber-talented Michigan point guard won every Player of the Year award that you can win, receiving trophy after trophy, posing for photo-opp after photo-opp, going from press conference to press conference to talk about the season that he had over the last five months.

And what a season it was.

Burke averaged 18.5 points and 6.8 assists. His efficiency numbers were superb despite being responsible for handling the ball on seemingly every one of Michigan’s possessions over the course of the season. He was the focal point of every defensive scheme, somehow managing to remain the engine that made the nation’s best offense run. He led a team full of freshmen to the national title game.

But there was only one piece of hardware that Burke wanted. And thanks to an 82-76 loss to Louisville in the national title game, he didn’t get it.

“It hurts a lot,” Burke said after the game. “Just to play for the national championship, it hurts so much.”

“You know we fought.”

Yes, we do.

MORE: Photos from Monday night

Burke, quite literally, left it all on the floor. He drove headlong into the lane and got knocked to the floor twice in the final minutes, spending every second he could milking the landing as he tried to catch his wind. After one possession where he went one-on-one against Russ Smith, trying to once again single-handedly lead Michigan back from a seemingly insurmountable deficit, he drew a foul and stepped to the line, grabbing his shorts as his chest heaved.

“There was never a point in time where we gave up,” he said.

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In all likelihood, this was the last time that we’ll ever see Burke suit up for the Wolverines. He was all-but out the door last season before a change of heart led him back to campus. You don’t think that, after a season where he’s the consensus Player of the Year and almost a lock for the lottery, he’ll be declaring for the draft?

And there-in lies the shame of it all.

MORE: Now this was a game for the ages

 Not that Burke is going pro. I think he’s making the right decision. As the saying goes, strike while the iron is hot, and Burke’s iron will never be hotter than it is right now.

The shame is that the lasting memory that most will have of Burke is with his head down, slowing walking off the court as the Cardinals celebrate, streamers and confetti bursting from the Georgia Dome rafters.

Not me.

The memory of Trey Burke that will always stick with me will be late in the first half, after Spike Albrecht had just beaten Louisville off of a high-ball screen, getting to the rim and finishing a layup over Gorgui Dieng for his 17th point of the game. That shot put the Wolverines up 33-21, their biggest lead of the game. Albrecht, the seldom-used back-up point guard who finished with a grand total of 24 points in all of Big Ten play, came sprinting back to the sideline, as fired up as you’ll ever see a basketball player.

MORE: Luke Hancock was the most touching story of the Final Four

The first person to meet him, sprinting out to midcourt, was Burke.

Because when Burke was recruited to Michigan, he was that guy. He was supposed to be the seldom-used back-up to Darius Morris, the guy that paid his dues for a couple of years before getting a shot to beat out the next John Beilein point guard recruit for a chance at a starting job. But Morris went pro earlier than expected, and Burke was suddenly forced into the starting job, where he thrived.

Where he grew into an all-Big Ten talent as a freshman and the Player of the Year and a lottery pick as a sophomore, all as a kid that had originally committed to Penn State.

That ascent into greatness is how I’ll remember Trey Burke.

And I hope you will as well.

You can find Rob on twitter @RobDauster.

UNLV’s Stephen Zimmerman out with a knee injury

UNLV forward Stephen Zimmerman Jr. shoots against San Diego State during an NCAA college basketball game Saturday, Jan. 30, 2016, in Las Vegas. (L.E. Baskow/Las Vegas Sun via AP)
(L.E. Baskow/Las Vegas Sun via AP)
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The injury Stephen Zimmerman suffered on Saturday will keep the star UNLV freshman out for at least a week, a source told NBC Sports.

The injury is not thought to be serious, however. Zimmerman may be kept out for longer as a precaution, but that’s a result of the Runnin’ Rebels being in a situation where the rest of their regular season is relatively meaningless.

They’re not getting an at-large bid to the NCAA tournament regardless of how they finish out league play. With back-up center Ben Carter out with a torn ACL, it’s more important to make sure that Zimmerman, who is averaging 10.6 points and 9.1 boards this season, is totally healthy for the Mountain West tournament.

That tournament, mind you, will be played at UNLV’s Thomas & Mack Center.

So the Runnin’ Rebels, regardless of how poor they’ve played this season, will always have a chance to land an automatic bid.

Anyway, the more interesting aspect of this story is how Zimmerman injured the knee. It was a completely avoidable play that came after the whistle, but I’m not sure it was what you would call a “dirty play”. You tell me:

VIDEO: Buddy Hield is ‘all money’ on game-winning three vs. No. 24 Texas

Oklahoma guard Buddy Hield (24) takes a shot over Oklahoma State forward Chris Oliver during the second half of an NCAA college basketball game in Stillwater, Okla., Wednesday, Jan. 13, 2016. (AP Photo/Brody Schmidt)
(AP Photo/Brody Schmidt)
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With a little more than three minutes left on Monday night, No. 24 Texas held a 57-51 lead on No. 3 Oklahoma in Norman as Jordan Woodard struggled again and Buddy Hield failed to find the rhythm that he had throughout the first three months of the season.

At that point in the game, Hield was 4-for-14 from the floor with 15 points and four turnovers. He had just missed a pair of wide-open threes

“I couldn’t make a shot,” Hield said after the game. But that changed down the stretch. First, Hield finally got a three to drop. On the next possession, he got all the way to the rim and scored. On the following two possessions, he was fouled on a drive to the rim and hit four free throws. And after missing a pull-up jumper, Hield did this:

“I told coach I wanted the ball,” Hield said, “I saw Lammert coming to bite, so I pulled up.”

“It’s all money.”

Hield is already the favorite to win National Player of the Year, and this performance is only going to help his cause further. Think about it like this: Buddy was not good on Monday night, at least according to his (admittedly lofty) standards. But he still finished with 27 points and shook off a cold shooting night just in time to take over down the stretch.

Now think about this: Hield’s head coach has enough confidence in him to hand him the keys in the final minutes despite the fact that he’s struggling and on a team that has two other players that Lon Kruger trusts on game-winning possessions. Think about it. When Oklahoma beat West Virginia at the buzzer, it was Jordan Woodard that the play was drawn up for. When they beat LSU, it was Isaiah Cousins that got the rock on the final possession while Hield was used as a decoy. .

Want to talk about coaching luxuries?

Kruger has three guards that can shoot, penetrate and score, and penetrate and kick, and one of them is the National Player of the Year that doesn’t mind being used as a decoy.