ATLANTA — A year ago at this time, when Trey Burke decided to come back to Michigan for his sophomore season, the star point guard immediately started talking about a national championship.
It was certainly a possibility — Burke’s return put the Wolverines near the top of the preseason rankings — but expectations like that are still hard to live up to. That’s why Michigan’s run to the Final Four has been so rewarding.
“It was just a matter of putting all the pieces together — everybody understanding their role,” Burke said. “Now that we’re here, it’s definitely surreal. It feels really good to be here. We’re having a lot of fun.”
After considering a jump to the NBA, Burke has made the most of another season in college. On Thursday, he was named national player of the year by The Associated Press — the first Michigan player to win that award since 1966. Now the focus turns to Saturday’s national semifinal against Syracuse, when Burke will try to move the Wolverines to within one win of that NCAA title.
“My teammates and coaching staff, you know, they put me in this position,” he said. “I wouldn’t be able to receive those awards without them.
“It would be great to get a win on Saturday, to have the opportunity to play on Monday and cut down the nets would definitely be a great feeling.”
When Burke first arrived at Michigan, he was immediately under pressure. Point guard Darius Morris had left after his sophomore season to go to the NBA, and Burke’s performance as the replacement would go a long way toward determining if the Wolverines could take another step forward after reaching the NCAA tournament in 2011.
The result: a share of the 2012 Big Ten title — the school’s first in 26 years.