He is the man of the hour for NBA fans following the last bits of the NCAA Tournament. With just about all the top prospects falling out of the tournament before the second weekend and any other hangers on missing the trip to Atlanta, Burke is all we have.
Of any of the players in tonight's game, Burke has the most NBA potential.
Burke is a smallish point guard, but he has lots of speed and a superb shooting ability. He was announced as the winner of the Bob Cousy Award earlier today, given out to the top point guard in the country. The list of guards who have won that award include current NBA players Jameer Nelson, Raymond Felton, D.J. Augustin and Greivis Vasquez. Not a namely bunch, but all have made solid careers in the NBA.
After struggling Saturday against Syracuse's 2-3 zone, Burke should be in for a bigger game tonight. Or perhaps a bigger test. Rick Pitino likes to run a trapping defense and that should put a lot of pressure on Burke. That should either help him shine even brighter or wilt a little bit more.
You do not want to take too much away form Burke's struggles. No team in the NBA will run a 2-3 zone like Syracuse does. He will probably not even face a pressure defense like Louisville's when he gets to the NBA. But an MVP performance on a big stage tonight could be the difference from being just a top-10 pick to cracking that top-5. At least before teams get to working him out.
Remember Glen Robinson? Remember Tim Hardaway? Ready to feel old?
Their kids both play for Michigan and we are sure to see plenty of shots of the two former NBA All Stars as they watch their sons play for a national championship.
Glen Robinson III is a very athletic player who is great around the basket and has some fine leaping ability. Tim Hardaway Jr. is more like his father and is a strong shooter and decent handler of the ball. Neither are the stars of their respective teams, but they will both need to have good games in helping keep Louisville's strong guard, Russ Smith and Peyton Seva, out of the paint.
It is their defense that could very well be the difference for this squad.
Did I mention that Al Horford's brother also plays for Michigan?
Louisville's controlled chaos
While the Wolverines may have more of the top NBA prospects than the Cardinals, the Cardinals actually play an offensive style more similar to the NBA.
The offense is centered around the dribble penetration ability of Seva and Smith. Both are lightning quick and capable of beating just about anyone off the dribble. Consistency has been their issue particularly with their jumpers and preventing turnovers. Right now they are playing very well though.
The Cardinals like to use the drives to open up shooters. Louisville does a good job spreading the floor with everyone but center Gorgui Dieng able to step out and hit a three. The question for Louisville is whether those shots go in or not. On most nights they do.
Defensively, Louisville likes to press and will try to get turnovers and get out on the break. This is where Seva and Smith are most dangerous: in the open floor.
Michigan is not a team that turns the ball over a lot and it runs a pretty disciplined offense, so Louisville will have to execute in the pick and roll and find ways to break off misses to do that.
Dieng, he's good
This is not a classic battle of the centers. Neither Gorgui Dieng or Mitch McGary were thought of as much entering the Tournament. However, both have proven to be vitally important for each squad as the Tournament has gone on. The game could very well be won on which center plays better tonight.
Dieng is not going to score a lot. He is more of a defensive minded player that reminds some of a Theo Ratliff or Nazr Mohammad. His offensive skills are limited. But Louisville is undoubtedly a better team with him in there, particularly on the glass.
That is where McGary has made his living this Tournament. The freshman, who will return to Michigan for his sophomore year, has been cleaning up the offensive glass and just outworking opposing centers around the rim. That has to be his approach again against a great defender like Dieng.
Above all, the reason to watch this game is that it should be a really good one.
Both Louisville and Michigan had been ranked No. 1 at various points of the season and both play exciting styles of basketball. They are strong squads that know how to execute and play at a high level on both ends of the floor.
It should be a great game.
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