Monday, April 15, 2013

What If Trey Burke Had Gone To Penn State

Trey Burke was committed to Penn State for almost a year.  Yes, Michigan's outstanding point guard, All-American, and Player of the Year at one time pledged to be a Nittany Lion.  Of course, he eventually switched to the Wolverines, but what would have happened if Burke had remained with Penn State?  Recruiting battles occur almost everyday and recruits change their minds constantly, but how would things look for both teams if Burke had not changed his mind.  This discussion of course changes nothing and Michigan fans are surely happy to have Burke, but it is an interesting concept.

Penn State
The Nittany Lions took two guards in the 2011 recruiting class, but have received mixed at best results from both.  These two guards were Matt Glover and Trey Lewis (Lewis has been described as the player recruited to replace Burke).  This is largely due to the timetable from when Burke decommitted and when Lewis committed.  Unfortunately for Penn State, both players ended up transferring from the program.  To say this is a downgrade is an understatement.  There is no proof that Burke would have worked out with Penn State, but going from Player of the Year to two transfers is a pretty big loss for any program.

So undoubtedly, the addition of Burke would have made an impact.  It would have been particularly interesting to see the impact last season, when Penn State had Tim Frazier.  Frazier was one of the top point guards in the conference and actually made 1st team All-Big Ten.  The instinctual decision would be to put both players on the floor at the same time, which would make things really interesting.  Who goes at the 1 and who goes at the 2?  As great as Burke has been this season, it seems likely that Burke would have been forced to slide over the 2 to get both players on the court.  They are both great scorers and passers, but Burke is probably a better 3 pt shooter than Frazier.  Penn State would not have been dominant in 2011-2012, but they certainly wouldn't have finished in last place in the Big Ten.  At least not with that backcourt.  It seems probable that they might have been able to sneak into the NIT Tournament, but going from last place in the Big Ten to a NCAA Tournament berth would still have probably been too much, especially with Burke as a freshman and not as a sophomore.

This year, Burke's services would have been much more valuable, considering that the Nittany Lions lost Tim Frazier at the beginning of the year.  Burke would have filled a much needed role and boosted a team struggling for leadership.  Penn State won 2 games in conference play.  Could Burke have changed that?  Almost certainly.  Now, it's not like he could have turned Penn State into a championship team, but they definitely would have been better.  NCAA Tournament bid?  Probably not without Frazier and Burke, but NIT bid?  That would have certainly been possible.

Michigan
This section can be a lot shorter.  Unless the Wolverines would have been able to land another point guard recruit in the 2011 recruiting class, they would have been in for a very rough season.  Darius Morris left for the NBA and the main players that could be used at that point were Eso Akunne and Stu Douglass.  Douglass would have been able to do alright, but he's much better suited to the 2 than he is to the point.  Along with this, Akunne is not a point guard that can take a team to that next level.  He's been a solid player for Michigan, but he's just limited in his abilities.  Instead of a Big Ten title, Michigan would have struggled just to make the NCAA Tournament without Burke.  This would have been a huge hit for the team and the program.

This season, the Wolverines would have definitely been able to find somebody to fill that point guard spot if they weren't able to grab Burke.  They had Spike in this recruiting class, but if there was a serious problem with the position in the season prior, they would have recruited it much harder and probably would have a bigger name recruit to show for it.  Spike has been a good surprise for Michigan fans this year, but a bigger name would have certainly been in the 2012 recruiting class if Burke never arrived in Ann Arbor.  However, this is still a true freshman or a true sophomore replacing a Player of the Year candidate.  No way Michigan enters the season so highly rated and makes it to the title game without Burke.  They probably could have made the NCAA Tournament, but the Wolverines would have looked a lot different in this scenario.

Overall
Burke staying committed to Penn State wouldn't have changed the world, but it would have put a serious dent in Michigan's long-term success.  Along with this, it would have probably boosted Penn State up quite a bit.  Not to the point of domination for the Nittany Lions, but certainly better than last place in the Big Ten.  This discussion may not change the scenario for either team, but it is interesting to see the impact of a player like Trey Burke on an upward trending Michigan and a bottom program like Penn State.

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