The Wolverine

April 2021

The Wolverine: Covering University of Michigan Football and Sports

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APRIL 2021 THE WOLVERINE 61 BY JOHN BORTON S pike Albrecht doesn't appear all that imposing beside the Hunter Dickinsons and Mitch McGarys of the basketball world. However, for one shining moment on an April Monday in 2013, the 5-11, 180-pound guard took center stage for his sport's greatest spectacle. Those on hand in Atlanta's Georgia Dome and millions more watching on TV will never forget. Albrecht's 17-point first-half out- burst against Louisville in the na- tional championship game instantly swirled into the magic dust of March Madness legend. Just getting there, in hindsight, seems like a miracle. After his final high school season in Crown Point, Ind., Albrecht held no college basketball offers. "I was doing a post-graduate year [at Northfield Mount Hermon in Mas- sachusetts], I was 80 percent through the season, and I still didn't have an offer," Albrecht recalled. "I started fill- ing out my applications just to be a normal student at IU and Purdue." Appalachian State finally offered. Then John Beilein came along, and normality went out the window. Seeking point guard insurance in case freshman Trey Burke opted for the NBA, Beilein acted on a tip from Albrecht's AAU coach. The AAU teammate of incoming U-M fresh- men McGary and Glenn Robinson III got invited to join them. Albrecht recalled the U-M coach telling him: "'You may never play more than five or 10 minutes a game here. I just want you to know that.'" The newest Wolverine appreciated the honesty and the opportunity. The year that followed exceeded all expectations. "To go from there to playing in a Final Four and for the national cham- pionship a year later, and being able to actually play and contribute in that game?" Albrecht mused. "It was surreal." Michigan making it to the national title game his freshman year might have actually been the least shocking aspect of the story. Albrecht insists he felt something big brewing very early on. "I remember talking about it with Nik Stauskas in the summer," he said. "We were going to open gyms. We had never played college basketball, so we didn't know how good we were. "But we just had a sense. Trey was so good. Timmy [Hardaway Jr.] was so good. Our freshman class was re- ally good. The competition level at these open gyms was unlike any- thing I'd ever been a part of." The Wolverines of 2012-13 roared through the non-conference slate at 13-0, then reeled off blowout victo- ries in their first three Big Ten games. "I thought, we could win this whole thing," Albrecht recalled. "I thought we might go undefeated. I was a little naïve." Then Ohio State jumped to a 26-6 lead in Columbus, hanging on to hand Michigan its first defeat, 56-53. "Here's life on the road in the Big Ten," Albrecht remembered thinking. Life on a roster stocked with NBA- bound guards wasn't so bad for the freshman. "I was practicing every day against Trey Burke, the National Player of the Year," Albrecht noted. "My skills were improving, and my confidence was building. The coaches were gain- ing a little bit more trust in me." So much so that instead of just briefly spelling Burke, Albrecht be- gan getting some minutes in the same backcourt. That built his confidence heading into the NCAA Tournament. While everyone remembers his title-game effort, not as many recall Albrecht draining 5 of 5 three-point- ers in the NCAA Tournament games leading up to it. He felt ready. But nobody stood ready to see what happened next. Albrecht nailed his first three-point attempt against Louisville's Cardi- nals. Then another. And another. And another. With the college basketball world's collective jaw dropping, Al- brecht slashed to the bucket for a la- yup to give the Wolverines a 12-point lead, 33-21, causing pandemonium and a Cardinals timeout with 3:51 remaining in the half. "That first half was an absolute roller coaster of emotions," Albrecht noted. "The atmosphere and the envi- ronment down in Atlanta was insane. I remember running through the tun- nels with the smoke going up. You had 75,000 people going bonkers. "When we went on our little run and Louisville called a timeout, I re- member our fans going crazy. My teammates rushed out onto the floor, chest-bumping and high-fiving me. "I didn't even understand the mag- nitude of what I was doing, being a guy who didn't play a ton and coming in to score a bunch of points like that. As a competitor, I'm just out there to win and do my part for the team." If they could have frozen that mo- ment and kept it forever, all would have been perfect. But they couldn't. Louisville's Luke Hancock grew red hot himself, the Cards clawed back to a one-point halftime deficit, and eventually overcame the Wol- verines, 82-76. Albrecht's 17 first-half points goes down in U-M lore, but the if-onlys linger. "It was an amazing experience," he acknowledged. "Obviously, losing the game sucked. But for me, person- ally, especially that first half, it was a really rewarding feeling. I had put in years and years of work, and for it to shine like that on the brightest stage, it was a pretty gratifying moment. In the first half of the 2013 national champi- onship contest against Louisville, Albrecht scored 17 points to spark Michigan to a 12-point lead late in the first half of a game the Wolverines eventually lost. PHOTO COURTESY MICHIGAN ATHLETICS WHERE ARE THEY NOW? Spike Albrecht Still Stirs Championship Memories

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