By Neal Rothschild, Daily Sports Editor
Published February 4, 2013
For all of Trey Burke’s successes in his charmed college career, one player has been a particular thorn in his side. Junior Aaron Craft has relentlessly hounded Burke on the defensive end the past two seasons, helping Ohio State take three of four matchups from Michigan.
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In those contests, Burke has shot a combined 16-for-49 from the floor and averaged five turnovers per contest. In last year’s Big Ten Tournament, he made only one of 11 shots and committed eight turnovers in a 22-point drubbing. Even in Burke’s lone victory over Craft, a 56-51 triumph in Ann Arbor last February, the Buckeye guard flustered the then-freshman point guard in the half court. It wasn’t until Michigan got Burke in transition and to the free-throw line that he was able to fill up the stat sheet.
Whether manufactured or organic, there is a rivalry between the two players that stems from Burke not being recruited by his hometown school, in part because Ohio State coach Thad Matta was content with his incumbent point guard.
Each time the rival schools square off, Burke denies that the game is about him and Craft, though it’s hard to imagine the sophomore doesn’t have a chip on his shoulder given his performances against Ohio State.
With Burke expected to be taken early in April’s NBA Draft, Tuesday night’s game could mark the last meeting between the two players.
The Michigan Daily talked to Craft in October for Big Ten Media Day.
The Michigan Daily: What’s it like going up against Burke, on your rival school nonetheless, a couple times each season?
Aaron Craft: It’s tough. He’s a great player and he’s only a sophomore, and he’s definitely solidified himself as one of the better guards in the conference. Being able to go against players like that, it’s always a lot of fun for me and it definitely creates that challenge that you want to go up against.
TMD: When you look at the schedule, do you think about the point-guard matchups — the player you’re really going to be going after?
AC: Yeah, usually game by game. You know the bigger point guards throughout the league and throughout the country, so anytime you get to play against one of the top-tier ones, you always get a little more excited and a little more ready to go.
TMD: You’re a player known for your defense. Do you take that as a challenge if you see someone like last year’s Jordan Taylor or Tim Frazier when they’re having a big season?
AC: I try not to make it as personal as I can. It’s a team thing. I wouldn’t be able to do what I do against the ball if I knew I didn’t have trust and confidence in my teammates behind me. As a whole, we understand that it will take all five of us to stop players like that.
TMD: As you take on more of a leadership role as an upperclassman, what type of things do you pass down to the younger guys?
AC: Just try to help them understand that we’re going to get everyone’s best game — that’s how you kind of want it though. It’s tough though, you can’t teach experience, so they’re going to have to experience it for themselves. They’re going to find out pretty early, playing Marquette on that first game (the outdoor contest that ended up being canceled). But it’s exciting and it’s great to have a great group of guys.
TMD: Jared Sullinger’s a guy you came in with, what’s it like moving forward without him?
AC: It’s interesting. We’ve definitely grown into (the leadership role without him) throughout the spring and summer. Just kind of adjusting to it and understanding we’re a different basketball team and it’s going to take different guys stepping up at different times.