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March 20, 2013The whole college basketball universe has stopped to watch this season when Michigan point guard and Naismith Award hopeful Trey Burke has squared off against other nationally elite point guards.
Trey Burke vs. Aaron Craft or Victory Oladipo or Keith Appling - these were must-see events for hoops junkies everywhere.
Thursday night, when the Wolverines square off against South Dakota State in the round of 64, there will be another great point across the court from Burke, though the average fan has probably never heard of him.
South Dakota State point guard Nate Wolters is fifth in the country in scoring, averaging 22.8 point per game, while adding 5.7 assists and 5.7 rebounds per game. On Feb. 7, he scored an incredible 53 points in a 80-74 win over IUPFW - the most points scored by any Division I player in a single game this season.
Now, the Summit League Player Of The Year will be charged with defending his Big Ten's counterpart.
"He's a great player," Wolters said of Burke. "Probably the national player of the year. They're a really talented team. They were ranked No. 1 earlier in the season. So it will be a good challenge for us and we're looking forward to it.
"I watched him on TV multiple times this year. He's a great player, probably the best point guard in the country. So we try to learn things from him. He's really good with pick and roll and good shooter. He's going to be tough to guard."
Wolters has the ability to take the game over - but he can also get his teammate involved.
The Wolverines will have to put pressure on him. Wolters averages 2.3 turnovers per game and boasts a 2.5-to-1 assist-to-turnover ratio.
"He plays very, very hard," said junior guard Tim Hardaway, Jr., who worked with Wolters at last summer's Kevin Durant Skills Camp. "He doesn't take any possessions off, and you can tell that he loves the game of basketball. He really gets his teammates involved. That's what he's out there doing right now is showing everybody. So it's not going to be an easy task guarding him. It's going to be tough. We're just going to do our best to contain him as much as possible and just try to go out and try to get a victory."
Although Wolters will certainly cause the Michigan defense problems, Burke will almost surely be a constant thorn in the Jackrabbits' side.
South Dakota State is giving up 65.6 points per game, which ranks No. 151 nationally.
And the Wolverines are one of the best offensive teams South Dakota State has seen all year. Michigan ranks No. 27 nationally in scoring offense (75.2 points per game).
Belmont (No. 15, 77.2 points per game) and Oakland (No. 34, 74.1 points per game) are the only other teams with Top 50 offenses. Belmont drubbed South Dakota State, 76-49. Oakland split two games with the Jackrabbits: an 81-74 loss and an 88-83 win.
So the Wolverines are going to be a lot to handle for South Dakota State.
"Offensively Michigan is really tough to stop," Jackrabbits coach Scott Nagy said, "A lot of talented offensive players. They have a great point guard who makes a ton of plays and we'll have to try to keep him in check, but I mean it's going to be a tough task. We probably haven't played an offensive team as good as they are.
"So I think it will be interesting. It's going to be important for us not to turn the ball over because they're tremendous in transition. We have to take care of the basketball."
Nagy is making no secrets about his plan to try to slow down Burke: put Wolters on him and hope for the best.
"We'll put Nate on Trey," he said. "Nate is a tremendous defender, but we've relied on him so much to play 40 minutes and to handle a basketball that I think sometimes people don't get to see how good a defender he is.
"Are we going to try to run with them? We're going to play the way that we play. Now, that means that in transition we're going to try to get good shots. We need to push the basketball. I don't want to spend every one of our offensive possessions playing them five on five. We need to get the ball and go when we can. I mean, we've always done that and I know that's what they're going to do.
"The most important thing for us is transition defense, and it's hard against them. You can talk about transition defense all you want and then you see the kind of speed. What makes them dangerous is not just Trey Burke that can handle the ball. [Freshman Glenn Robinson III] can get the ball off the glass and go. Hardaway can get the ball off the glass and go. [Freshman Nik Stauskas] can do it. They have a lot of guys that can handle the ball on the break, and I think that's what makes them so dangerous."
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