Talented Burke poses challenge
Published: Sunday, March 31, 2013 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Saturday, March 30, 2013 at 10:30 p.m.
ARLINGTON, Texas — He's chased opponents around the court so much it must feel like he's run a marathon by the end of the games. He's banged into so many screens it must feel like he's been in a boxing match at the end of games.
Scottie Wilbekin has taken on the best offensive players in the country throughout this season. Today, he faces his toughest challenge yet.
Trey Burke might be the best player in the country. He showed it on Friday when he was shut out in the first half and scored 23 points in the second to rally Michigan past top-seeded Kansas in the Sweet 16.
“He obviously took over the game,” Florida coach Billy Donovan said. “When you're dealing with him, it's a long process. You can do a great job on him for 10 minutes, a great job on him for 25 minutes. He has the ability to just explode at any point in time.”
Burke's explosion in the second half was punctuated by a game-tying 3-point shot from NBA range that sent the game to overtime. It was one of those shots you've seen a lot, are going to see a lot today and are going to see during NCAA games in the future.
“I had about 200 messages,” Burke said. “I had a lot of messages from people who said they thought we were going to lose, down 10 with two minutes to play. Most people would turn the channel.”
Today, he faces Wilbekin and vice versa in a matchup of will and quickness and basketball IQ. Florida knows it can't beat Michigan without making Burke uncomfortable.
And that will be Wilbekin's job. Donovan has preached ever since the end of the Florida Gulf Coast game that his post players don't get enough credit defensively because of switches and taking away the inside.
But it was on Wilbekin to keep FGCU point guard Brett Comer from penetrating, and it will be his job again today to contain the Big Ten's player of the year.
“It's tough, but I'm used to it,” Wilbekin said. “I've been playing basketball my whole life. But he's probably the toughest (guy I've faced) as far as being able to do so many things so well on offense.
“He's probably the best player I've faced. I'm just used to it. I don't look at it any other way.”
Let's face it. This isn't a game of one-on-one. There will be a lot of chess pieces out on the floor in steamy Jerry World.
But it's the Wilbekin-Burke battle that will garner the most attention.
“Really good defender,” Burke said. “Just from watching film and watching Florida last year, I understand that he's kind of one of their best defenders.”
And that's what makes it interesting. It's what we gravitate to the television for during this time of the year. It's a classic matchup, offense vs. defense.
Nothing new to the Florida point guard. He's chased Marshall Henderson and Mark Lyons and Phil Pressey around the country. He's been assigned to SEC player of the year Kentavious Caldwell-Pope of Georgia and was plumb worn out after chasing Alabama's guards around the court in Nashville.
And now, here comes the best yet.
“We have to slow down Burke,” Wilbekin said. “He's the start of their offense and the end of it. They give him the ball to start the offense and then he gets it when the shot clock is running down.”
It was obvious that the player Burke reminds Donovan of is Pressey from Missouri because that was the name the players used in the news conferences.
“We have to make him feel uncomfortable,” UF senior guard Mike Rosario said.
If Florida is going to advance to the Final Four, it won't have to do what Kansas did in the first half Friday.
But it can't let Burke do what he did to Kansas in the second half.
Contact Pat Dooley at 352-374-5053 or at email@example.com. And follow at Twitter.com/Pat_Dooley.