ATLANTA -- Player of the year accolades have been rolling in for Michigan point guard Trey Burke, and he put an exclamation point on his season by knocking down the three-pointer that kept the Wolverines alive in their overtime win over Kansas in the NCAA Tournament Sweet 16. But Saturday night at the Georgia Dome in the national semifinals, Burke enters the "Twilight Zone," which is to say the 2-3 zone employed by Syracuse that unhinges opponents.
The difficulty for even a player as good as Burke can't be exaggerated. "It's tough to play against a zone you've never seen before," said Orange point guard Michael Carter-Williams, the other half of a marquee matchup. "I'm sure Trey Burke is going to make some plays, but we want to force him to do things he hasn't done before.
"He has a great assist-to-turnover ratio. We want to cut that down and make him turn the ball over and force up some shots. We're going to make it tough for him."
Coach John Beilein admitted Michigan (30-7) must change some of what it does against Syracuse (30-9) because of coach Jim Boeheim's devilish zone. Burke has been effective running the high pick-and-roll with center Mitch McGary, but Carter-Williams said, "We're taking that away in the zone."
Burke countered by saying it's a matter of Michigan making the right passes, hitting open three-pointers and using speed to score in transition and negate the size advantage the Orange have when it sets up the zone.
The Wolverines won't abandon the pick-and-roll entirely.
"It won't be as easy, but that action will be there and there will be other options on the perimeter that they will have to guard," Burke said. "It's going to be more of a feel, but it's impossible to guard all five spots on the court. It's our job to read the defense and see what they're giving us."