Tom Izzo: Trey Burke controls the game better than any Big Ten player in a 'long, long time'
The longtime Michigan State basketball coach has had some great ones during his tenure in East Lansing -- including Big Ten Player of the Year winners Mateen Cleaves and Kalin Lucas.
And this season, from what he's seen of Trey Burke, Michigan has an awfully good one, too.
One of the best Izzo has seen in some time, actually.
"I don't think we've seen a guy control the game like Burke has in a long, long time in this league," Izzo said Monday on the Big Ten coaches teleconference." (There have been) a lot of good point guards over the years, but when you can shoot it or pass it, it really makes a difference.
"He's probably able to do both as well as any."
Izzo, who will host Michigan on Tuesday (9 p.m., ESPN), talked at length Monday about the depth of the Wolverines' talent base this season. But almost every time, his comments found a way to round back toward Burke.
In Izzo's estimation, Burke -- a national player of the year candidate -- has the ability to turn an average play into a great one, and a good player into an elite player just by being on the floor.
He also wasn't bashful about singing the praises of Tim Hardaway Jr., who is now shooting 43.8 percent from downtown this season, and has been on the money in recent weeks for the Wolverines.
"Burke's been good almost since the day he stepped on campus, he really makes a difference for those other guys," Izzo said. "A shooter like (Nik) Stauskas, I think (we thought) he'd be a good player, but boy, Burke makes him a great player -- he gets him the ball at the right place at the right time.
"They've got two good guards, no, two great guards who make a difference."
Izzo may have great respect for Burke and Hardaway, but the last time his team squared off against Michigan, the Spartans completely controlled Michigan's backcourt during a 10-point home win in East Lansing last season.
During that game, Burke and Hardaway went a combined 5 of 21 from the floor with 5 turnovers.
Will the Spartans be able to contain the Wolverines' two elite guards again Tuesday? Maybe.
But Izzo says it'll be a lot harder this time around.
"I just think it's a perfect example of guys getting some experience," Izzo said. "Burke is much better complete guard this year. Last year he was shooting off those ball screens, now he's making four other people better off those ball screens. He's still scoring the same amount, but a lot more efficiently.
"And Hardaway's just on a tear right now. He looks like he's gotten a little bigger and stronger, more confident with his ball-handling and he's shooting the lights out. Maturity and experience have been two key reasons."
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