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. Former Missouri wing headed to San Diego State

    Aug 27, 2015, 9:45 PM EDT

    Riley LaChance, Montaque Gill-Caesar AP

    The 6-foot-6 Canadian averaged 9.1 points and 3.0 rebounds per game last season.

  2. Report: 2016 point guard Myles Powell trims list to five

    Aug 27, 2015, 9:27 PM EDT

    Kelly Kline/Under Armour/Getty Images Kelly Kline/Under Armour/Getty Images

    Georgetown, Georgia Tech and Saint Joseph’s failed to make the cut for the New Jersey native.

  3. Big Ten releases full conference schedule

    Aug 27, 2015, 7:43 PM EDT

    (AP) AP

    Early favorite Maryland and reigning champion Wisconsin both open league play at home.

  4. Former Arkansas forward joins Middle Tennessee State program

    Aug 27, 2015, 4:44 PM EDT

    (Getty Images) Getty Images

    Williams’ arraignment on first degree suspicion of forgery charges was postponed until September 2.

  5. New mixtape for 2016’s biggest riser, Wenyen Gabriel (VIDEO)

    Aug 27, 2015, 3:35 PM EDT

    Kelly Kline/adidas Kelly Kline/adidas

    Gabriel is a five-star prospect with offers from Kentucky and Duke.

  6. Throwback Thursday: When we realized Russell Westbrook was a freak (VIDEO)

    Aug 27, 2015, 12:15 PM EDT

    Getty Images Getty Images

    Westbrook wasn’t a top 25 prospect in high school. He was a top three player in the NBA last year.

  7. Blue Ribbon announces their preseason all-american team

    Aug 27, 2015, 10:50 AM EDT

    Blue Ribbon

    It’s the first preseason all-american team that we’ve seen this summer.

  8. Cody Zeller, Indiana president speak out against recent athlete legal issues

    Aug 27, 2015, 9:41 AM EDT

    Getty Images Getty Images

    Zeller handed out a warning. Michael McRobbie was a bit more upset.

  9. Five-star 2016 combo guard cuts list to four

    Aug 26, 2015, 10:38 PM EDT

    Kelly Kline/adidas Kelly Kline/adidas

    Frank Jackson will take an official visit to one of the four schools this weekend.

  10. Highlights of Michigan State’s Italy trip-opening win over Basket Fiorentina

    Aug 26, 2015, 9:31 PM EDT

    AP Photo AP

    Bryn Forbes scored 18 points to lead a balanced scoring attack for the Spartans.

  11. Indiana president none too pleased with recent legal issues involving student-athletes

    Aug 26, 2015, 7:35 PM EDT

    Michael McRobbie AP

    Michael McRobbie’s address came two days after Emmitt Holt and Thomas Bryant were cited for illegal possession of alcohol.

  12. Seton Hall to give scholarship basketball players $2,600 towards cost of attendance

    Aug 26, 2015, 5:41 PM EDT

    Kevin Willard AP

    Seton Hall AD said his coaches haven’t had to deal with negative recruiting re: cost of attendance stipends, but he’s ready to act if so.

  13. Xavier, Mount St. Joseph to launch the ‘Lauren Hill Tip-Off Classic’

    Aug 26, 2015, 3:23 PM EDT

    AP AP

    Lauren Hill raised more than $1.8 million for pediatric cancer research before she passed away.

  14. LSU highlights from Australia trip (VIDEO)

    Aug 26, 2015, 12:06 PM EDT

    Kelly Kline/Under Armour Kelly Kline/Under Armour

    Get a look at potential No. 1 pick Ben Simmons.

  15. Richard Pitino gets contract extension, comments on Norwood Teague

    Aug 26, 2015, 11:45 AM EDT

    AP Photo AP

    He’s still the second-highest paid Pitino in the coaching world.

  16. Times, networks announced for SEC/Big 12 Challenge

    Aug 26, 2015, 10:51 AM EDT

    Reuters Reuters

    A battle between Kentucky and Kansas headlines this event.

  17. 10 year old Ohio State fan worried heart surgery would make him love Michigan

    Aug 26, 2015, 10:30 AM EDT

    2ljfrxdhjejmccpdr5ccycxi2

    There’s really nothing more important than that for a 10-year old boy.

  18. Summer mixtape of four-star guard Jaylen Fisher (VIDEO)

    Aug 25, 2015, 10:30 PM EDT

    Getty Images Getty Images

    Class of 2016 point guard Jaylen Fisher had some great highlights this summer.

  19. Could a small change help Utah’s Jakob Poeltl improve his free throw numbers?

    Aug 25, 2015, 9:30 PM EDT

    Jakob Poeltl, Jordan McLaughlin AP

    Jakob Poeltl is a potential top-10 pick in the 2016 NBA Draft, but he has to improve his 44 percent free-throw shooting.