The Wolverine

April 2021

The Wolverine: Covering University of Michigan Football and Sports

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8 THE WOLVERINE APRIL 2021 M arch remains all about madness. There's al- ways more, of course. Sometimes there are miracles. For all but one team, misery knocks on the door. Misery came knocking early for Michigan's Big Ten- champion Wolverines. No, not the final misery. Not the one where you pack up the bas- ketballs, slam dunk the towels and let the goodbye tears roll down your cheeks. Still, losing a key compo- nent — a vital organ, if you will — hurts like a spear to the midsection. It's also a blow as cruel as they come to senior captain Isaiah Livers, whose stress-fractured right foot may end his Michigan career. He's known pain before. Livers and his teammates stood on the doorstep of hoped-for runs in the Big Ten and NCAA Tournaments last year, before a global pandemic blocked that shot. A year later, Livers looks on, cheering, encouraging, rooting on his teammates while rehabbing his traitorous foot. He's hoping against hope for a March Madness run and a March Miracle healing to allow a way back. The latter do materialize, mak- ing the NCAA Tournament one of the most compelling events in all of sport. Just ask Spike Albrecht. He's a walking, talking testament to March Madness double-takes and jaw drops. Only eight years ago, on the most- coveted Monday night in sport, Al- brecht cemented his place in NCAA history. He saw extended minutes in the title-game showdown against an incredibly strong Louisville crew. And he couldn't miss. Subbing in for foul-troubled Na- tional Player of the Year Trey Burke, Albrecht seemed well down the list of performers set to mesmerize 75,000 in the Georgia Dome and mil- lions on television. He did it anyway. The 5-11 guard entered a forest of far-more intimidating performers and hit his first three-pointer. Then he bombed in another. And another. And another. When he drove to the bucket for a scoop and score for his 17th first-half point, forcing a timeout, the dome shook to its foundations. Fans every- where — especially Michigan fans — wheeled toward equally aston- ished onlookers, an unspoken Can You Believe This etched on their faces. That's March. That's what this live event, filled with twists and turns, can evoke. It's what Albrecht lived then. It's what he and all Michigan fans hope for now. Michigan didn't win the title that night in Atlanta. But Albrecht gave the Wolverines a chance, and gave college basketball a memory that will live as long as fans clutch NCAA brackets and hopes. Spike — so nicknamed for his reticence to ever take off his baseball spikes as a kid — delivers virtual and in-person basketball teaching these days. He also still watches Michigan basketball, with a passion. "I love this year's team," Albrecht said. "I'm so impressed with what they're doing, with what Coach [Ju- wan] Howard is doing. They're fun to watch, and I'm not saying it just because I'm a Michigan Man. "I legitimately think they're the best team in the country. I think they can win the whole thing. They're ranked No. 2 or 3 right now, but they've got all the pieces. I'm excited to see what they do come tourney time." Albrecht made that state- ment before the Wolverines lost a very big piece, at least for the early going and maybe altogether. But if anyone knows the mysteries of March, and what's possible on any given night, it's the former Wolverine who shocked the world for 20 minutes. He also knows the talent on U-M's roster runs deep. He en- visioned a matchup between this year's incredible freshman center, 7-1 Hunter Dickinson, and Mitch McGary of the 2013 crew. "Crazy!" Albrecht mused. "They're both massive human be- ings, they're both left-handed. It's like I'm seeing double out there. It's crazy. Dickinson's a load, man! He's a big dude. Dickinson versus Mitch would be awesome." The 2013 crew included NBA first- rounder Nik Stauskas, but sopho- more Franz Wagner would give him a battle, Albrecht insisted. "Franz would be getting all up in Stauskas' business," Albrecht said. "He's a good defender. If he keeps playing like this, he ain't coming back. I hate to say it. Michigan fans got mad at me on Twitter, but he's too good. "He's big, he's long, he can de- fend, he can pass, he can get to the rim. I don't know, man. He's good." Michigan features other headlin- ers who can rise in March. But the Wolverines also feature others — senior transfer guard Chaundee Brown Jr., junior forward Brandon Johns Jr. and more — who might help make a miracle. Albrecht has been there, and done that. The door's wide open for the next. ❏ WOLVERINE WATCH   JOHN BORTON March Mission Grows Much Tougher The foot injury that will hold senior captain Isaiah Livers out for an indefinite period of time means the Wolverines will need more from sophomore Franz Wagner (above) in the postseason. PHOTO BY LON HORWEDEL Editor John Borton has been with The Wolverine since 1991. Contact him at and follow him on Twitter @JB_Wolverine.

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