Skip to content

Breaking Down: Trey Burke and the perils ‘Craft Island’

Jan 14, 2013, 4:25 PM EDT

Michigan Ohio St Basketball

Trey Burke has been having a year that should earn him some serious National Player of the Year consideration.

I’m not going to get too in-depth on why that is — you can check that out here — but the long-and-short of it is that Burke is a tremendously efficient and productive player that is the primary playmaker and scorer for one of the nation’s best teams. He’s been nothing short of sensational this season, especially when it comes to creating open looks for his teammates.

Which is why the job that Aaron Craft did on Burke on Sunday afternoon was as impressive as any individual defensive performance that I can remember.

In case you’ve forgotten — or in case you were too busy watching the Falcons earn the right to lose to the 49ers in the NFC title game next weekend — Ohio State knocked off then-No.2 and then-undefeated Michigan 56-53 in Columbus. Michigan needed to rally from a 29-8 deficit to make things interesting. And Burke? He finished with 15 points and four assists while shooting 4-13 from the floor and turning the ball over four times.

One of those assists came when Evan Ravenel was matched up with him after an in-bounds play under the basket. Burke was also 2-5 from three on the day, the second of which was a ridiculous leaner that he banked with with 1.0 seconds left in the game, down by six.

Take those two possessions into account, and Burke had 12 points, three assists and four turnovers on 3-12 shooting on Sunday. (And that’s before you factor in defensive breakdowns on the part of Craft’s teammates.)

From a guy that has been the best point guard in the country, playing on the nation’s most potent offense.

And Craft shut him down more-or-less by himself.

You see, Ohio State has the luxury of matching up perfectly with the Wolverines. Craft is such an unbelievable on-the-ball defender that Thad Matta could simply put him on an island against Burke. As John Beilein put it, Ohio State “locked the rails and made you pay two-on-two in the middle.” They didn’t help off of Tim Hardaway Jr. or Nik Stauskas or Glenn Robinson III. The Buckeyes simply allowed Burke to try to beat Craft one-on-one or in the pick-and-roll.

Part of what makes Craft such a good defender — in addition to his terrific lateral quickness and lightening fast hands that would make the most skilled pickpockets jealous — is his strength and his balance. Simply put, if he doesn’t want you going somewhere on the floor, you’re not going to get there, and that’s why Michigan had so much trouble in ball-screen actions.

At the top of the key, Craft could simply work his way over the top of a screen, which is less game-planning than it is terrific individual effort.

What was interesting was how Ohio State defended Michigan’s side ball-screen. One of the sets that the Wolverines like to run involves Burke hitting a wing and cutting through to the opposite side of the floor. Michigan has a couple different looks they can run out of that, but if they can’t get a good look, the ball is eventually swung to Burke on the wing on the left side of the floor. Michigan’s big man will come over and set a ball-screen. The goal is to get Burke to be able to drive to his right down the middle of the lane with the three shooters — Hardaway, Robinson and Stauskas — spotting up along the three point line.

Craft wouldn’t let Burke use the screen by jumping above it while whoever was guarding the screen — in this case, Evan Ravenel — would cut off Burke’s ability to penetrate to his left towards the baseline:

source:

And if Burke was able to get into the lane, Ohio State didn’t try to cut him off. Trying to score on Craft is a lot tougher than kicking the ball out to an open shooter:

source:

Here’s another example. This one ends up in Craft forcing a turnover by Burke. Notice that, once again, there is no help.

“Craft is a matchup problem for anybody,” Beilein said. “He’s a great, great defense player. You don’t hear me say that often. That kid can really guard. He impacts the game the way a great middle linebacker or a great safety can impact a football game.”

I disagree.

He’s more like a shutdown cornerback.

You don’t want to get stuck on ‘Craft Island’.

Previous Breaking Down posts can be found here.

You can find Rob on twitter @RobDauster.

Latest Posts
  1. Three-star forward Rapolas Ivanauskas becomes Northwestern’s first 2016 commitment

    Apr 18, 2015, 6:15 PM EDT

    AP Photo AP

    Chris Collins and his staff have done a good job of recruiting local talent, and they reeled in another player Saturday.

  2. 2016 New Mexico commit Mitch Lightfoot decides to reopen recruitment

    Apr 18, 2015, 5:25 PM EDT

    Craig Neal Craig Neal

    Lightfoot was on the receiving end of offers from Arizona State and Utah before committing to UNM, and the new staff at ASU has already reached out to him.

  3. Former Cornell forward Shonn Miller headed to UConn for final season of eligibility

    Apr 18, 2015, 4:39 PM EDT

    cd0ymzcznguwzdbhnduynddiytjhm2yyzthlmtjjotqwyyznpte4mwi1zmrlntq4ndc4yjfiywyzztq3zgnhzgfhmgu0 AP

    Miller averaged 16.8 points and 8.5 rebounds per game last season, and he’s an important addition for the UConn front court.

  4. Five members of Iowa State’s 2014-15 team have been arrested after two more arrests this week

    Apr 18, 2015, 4:15 PM EDT

    Dustin Hogue AP

    More arrests at Iowa State as two more members of the 2014-15 roster were charged within the last week.

  5. Boise State star granted fifth year of eligibility

    Apr 18, 2015, 3:15 PM EDT

    Anthony Drmic AP

    Boise State received some encouraging news this week as Anthony Drmic is returning for another season.

  6. Purdue center A.J. Hammons to return for senior season

    Apr 18, 2015, 2:36 PM EDT

    AP Photo AP

    Hammons’ decision to return makes the Boilermakers a Top 25 team.

  7. Rutgers head coach Eddie Jordan will earn his degree this spring

    Apr 18, 2015, 2:15 PM EDT

    Eddie Jordan AP

    Rutgers head coach Eddie Jordan has been taking classes at the school in order to complete his degree.

  8. Storylines from the Jordan Brand Classic: Diallo claims another MVP; Briscoe wins over crowd

    Apr 18, 2015, 1:15 PM EDT

    2015 Jordan Brand Classic Getty Images

    A look at the top storylines from the 14th annual Jordan Brand Classic.

  9. Illinois lands commitment from Charlotte graduate transfer big man Mike Thorne Jr.

    Apr 18, 2015, 11:58 AM EDT

    Kacinas Thorne AP

    Illinois landed a huge graduate transfer on Saturday.

  10. Report: Coppin State graduate transfer Sterling Smith will visit four programs

    Apr 18, 2015, 10:45 AM EDT

    Sterling Brown, Rashad Smith AP

    Coppin State junior guard Sterling Smith is looking like a prime graduate transfer.

  11. Five-star Kentucky commit believes the NCAA will clear him to play

    Apr 18, 2015, 9:35 AM EDT

    Kelly Kline/Under Armour Kelly Kline/Under Armour

    Kentucky five-star big man Skal Labissiere believes that the NCAA will allow him to play this season.

  12. West defeats East 118-116 in the Jordan Brand Classic

    Apr 17, 2015, 10:23 PM EDT

    Getty Images Getty Images

    Cheick Diallo won named MVP for both the McDonald’s All-American Game and Jordan Brand Classic.

  13. Iowa State coach Fred Hoiberg undergoes successful open heart surgery

    Apr 17, 2015, 9:30 PM EDT

    AP Photo AP

    Hoiberg just completed his fifth season at Iowa State.

  14. Gonzaga big man to return for senior season

    Apr 17, 2015, 7:18 PM EDT

    AP AP

    Domantas Sabonis previously announced he would return.

  15. Top plays from the Jordan Brand Classic practice

    Apr 17, 2015, 6:05 PM EDT

    diallo

    The Jordan Brand Classic is Friday night at the Barclays Center in Brooklyn.

  16. Duke among list of candidates for graduate transfer guard

    Apr 17, 2015, 5:00 PM EDT

    Getty Images Getty Images

    The former Villanova guard cut his list to eight.

  17. Mountain West gives New Mexico guard Cullen Neal medical hardship year

    Apr 17, 2015, 4:23 PM EDT

    AP Photo AP

    Thanks to this ruling Neal will have three years of eligibility remaining.

  18. 2016 shooting guard Mustapha Heron de-commits from Pittsburgh

    Apr 17, 2015, 3:19 PM EDT

    adidas adidas

    Heron, who committed to Pitt back in January 2014, says he will continue to consider Jamie Dixon’s program.

  19. Four-star guard becomes Avery Johnson’s first commitment as Alabama head coach

    Apr 17, 2015, 1:31 PM EDT

    Avery Johnson Avery Johnson

    Dazon Ingram joins Brandon Austin and Donta Hall, both of whom remained committed following the firing of Anthony Grant, in Alabama’s 2015 class.