Michigan's top priority: Stopping South Dakota State's national player of the year candidate, Nate Wolters
But he won't be the only Wooden Award finalist on the court when the fourth-seeded Wolverines (26-7) open NCAA tournament play at 7:15 p.m. Thursday against 13th-seeded South Dakota State (25-9).
Jackrabbits senior point guard Nate Wolters, also a national player of the year finalist. He is the country's fourth-leading scorer at 22.7 points per game, and poured in 53 points during a Feb. 7 win against IPFW.
And at 6-foot-4, he's a bigger point guard who is quick enough to get to the bucket and long enough to get off his shot from anywhere. And he really has a shot.
Tim Hardaway Jr. would know.
The Michigan wing played with Wolters last June at the Kevin Durant Skills Academy in Chicago, and walked away impressed by the SDSU senior.
"Just seeing how he played, he definitely can handle the ball, shoot the ball," said Hardaway, who also kept tabs on Wolters by watching a couple SDSU games this season. "He's cool. Quiet guy. Has fun, loves to play basketball. His work ethic is incredible.
"He's just a humble individual. He's got a great work ethic, he just loves to play basketball. If you're a true basketball player, then you can really see it."
Wolters is peaking, too, turning in one of his better all-around games in the Summit League tournament final against rival North Dakota State. He finished with 27 points, six rebounds, six assists and four steals.
That's the thing about Wolters, projected by some as a possible first-round NBA draft selection: He is more than just a scorer.
He averages 5.8 assists per game and his 6-4 frame allows him to be a force on the boards, averaging a remarkable 5.6 rebounds from the point guard position.
"We're going to have to play a team game defensively," freshman forward Mitch McGary said. "Just lock him down and make his teammates make more plays than him. He's a great player, from what I've seen, and he can do anything on the court."
Wolters' matchup against Burke -- a pair of possible first-round NBA draft selections -- should offer one of the most tantalizing individual matchups in the opening weekend of the tournament.
"I'm looking forward to it," Burke said. "I think he's averaging around 22 points -- that's impressive. I'm looking forward to it. I'm just excited, really. I'm looking forward to this opportunity."
Burke struggled in a similarly high-profile point guard matchup last year, when Ohio's D.J. Cooper scored 21 points on 7-of-11 shooting. The 13th-seeded Bobcats knocked off Michigan 65-60 in the second round game, the worst-seeded team ever to beat U-M in the tournament.
This matchup could be even tougher for Burke, considering he's 3 inches shorter than Wolters. But he's prepared to show why he's widely considered the best point guard in the country.
"It's going to be fun," he said.
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