Michigan star Trey Burke announced Monday that he will return to the Wolverines after flirting with entering the 2012 NBA Draft (story). About a week ago, Ohio State’s Deshaun Thomas announced the same thing (story), which got us thinking the following: Which player’s return is bigger? BTN.com senior writer Tom Dienhart and BTN.com blogger Brent Yarina debate the topic in this post. Also on Monday, Minnesota guard Chip Armelin announced he is transferring (story).
Tom: I think Burke’s return is bigger. He’s the engine of that team, the point guard who directs traffic and makes things happen. Without Burke, the Wolverines would have been without their catalyst. Who would have been the lead guard? Little-used senior Eso Akunne? Incoming freshman Spike Albrecht? You get my point. Now, with Burke in the fold, Michigan is a legit contender to win another Big Ten title—and perhaps reach the Final Four–with players like Jordan Morgan and Tim Hardaway Jr., back. And don’t forget: The Wolverines welcome a star-studded recruiting class led by big man Mitch McGary and forward Glenn Robinson III.
Brent: No doubt Burke’s return is huge for Michigan, but just as you say who would have been the lead guard without Burke, I ask: Who would put the ball in the bucket for Ohio State without Thomas? I don’t want to downplay Burke’s impact, however we were just wondering the same thing a year ago when Darius Morris left early for the NBA. Things turned out pretty well for Burke and Michigan. Not saying Spike Albrecht or someone else would repeat Burke’s surprising season, but Michigan would still have Tim Hardaway Jr., Jordan Morgan and a loaded incoming class. If Thomas left Ohio State, the Buckeyes would have had zero proven scorers, with Aaron Craft, the defense-first point guard, leading the way. That would have been a disaster. Now, Ohio State can rely on Thomas for most of its scoring and keep Craft and Lenzelle Smith Jr. in their familiar roles of defense/facilitating and glue guy, respectively. Basically, both guys are giant returnees, but I think Ohio State sans Thomas is worse off than Michigan sans Burke.
BTN.com senior writer Tom Dienhart is on Twitter and Facebook, and all of his work is at btn.com/tomdienhart. Send questions to his weekly mailbag, subscribe to his RSS feed, and check out his video Q&A.