Michigan has acquired a commitment from TN WR Nate Johnson. Johnson came out of nowhere, as it was just two days ago that he set up a visit. Johnson is the definition of a late-rising prospect: after decommitting from Purdue in November, he picked up offers from Miami, Tennessee, Penn State, and Michigan.
Johnson's a four star on 247; the other sites have him a three star save Scout, which hasn't ranked him yet. More after the basketball game.
Things from the past. AC1997 this week decided to do one of those regular “What are the Michigan basketball alums up to?” posts. Only thing to add to it is that Darius Morris hasn’t caught on with anyone this year because he’s hurt, via his Twitter.
AC added at the end that he’d like someone to do the same for hockey. I give you three guesses who took him up on that. Not Blueline, that’s Adam. Not Center Ice, but where is Center Ice lately—like I see him on twitter and that’s it. C’mon it’s hockey it’s easy.
Things that should stay in the past. Before The Query, MGoBlog was doing fine. You could log in, log out, post things, read things, and even neg things. Then a part of the system once thought dead and buried started getting hits. Super-expensive servers across the nation were suddenly taxed to their limits, unable to deny a request to reconstruct pages that hadn’t been cached since “At least it’s not [the year we went 7-5]” was thought to be some kind of wise perspective.
We have found the culprit: Maize.Blue Wagner has been sifting through the nether regions of MGoBlog, posts with zero previous views because what you see was downloaded from its original blogspot page. Wagner has created a summary of all the things Brian wrote ten years ago this month, plus one thing Jon Chait (!) wrote.
Things from the future? Prior to Ace’s recruiting roundup we were thinking of posting an eagle’s eye view of the class going into the dead period. Then the venerable alum96 wrote it in the diaries. He has some sound opinions on guys who might not remain in the class considering some of the shopping they’ve been doing. I like Michigan’s chances of getting David Long more than alum does and don’t really know where Nordin/grayshirt is coming from (I mean I know the board it’s coming from but not sure where that’s coming from).
Best of the Board
HOW WE GOT IT BETTER THAN THEY
MGoKev found an old story on the origins of “Who’s got it better than us?” You can click to find out, or just believe me that it was the line Jim Harbaugh yelled upon emerging from a vat of electrified spilled chemicals during a lab test to create a superhuman. Yes, Jim Harbaugh is a Marvel character; go ahead and doubt me.
BYRD FINALLY GETS THE BIRD
Maryland’s stadium is now “Maryland Stadium” after they finally decided that being a bad president for a long time didn’t make up for being a major segregationist. Coincidentally the student who led the petition to change it was also named Byrd. JLo nailed it re: missed opportunity:
BECAUSE THEY ARE A PESTILENCE
A guy who lives in Columbus wanted to know why we hate Michigan State so bad here.
- They are actually about half the state and bunch together in certain places.
- The biggest hive of Michigan State fans isn’t the blog with the best content or the recruiting site with the best information; it’s the Red Cedar Message Board, which has more per capita trolls than any place on the internet. That is both a reflection on the makeup of their everything-hating fanbase, and a driver of it.
- Their media are unbearable and ubiquitous in town. Until recently they owned all the local sports talk radio and filled those seats with Mike Valenti and Pat Caputo, both of whom will spend more time ripping or trolling Michigan than on content related to Michigan State. And they have Graham Couch.
Basically imagine those Bucks except they hate everything and you most of all.
Etc. Two good gift ideas. Dakota Prukop is surprisingly the name of a potential grad transfer QB, and not a character in the new Star Wars movie, though his tape reminds me a lot of Forcier. A 4-team playoff is not the best model; 6 is. Watch video of the bust. The Dab.
Your Moment of Zen:
As always, click the links/stills to open each GIF in a lightbox.
The first real hint that Spike Albrecht would exceed even the most unreasonable expectations came in the second game of the 2013 NCAA Tournament, when he threaded a left-handed bounce pass between two defenders to hit Glenn Robinson III in stride from halfcourt. Michigan's bench leapt in unison—we thought, at the time, out of shock, but in retrospect perhaps they knew before the rest of us that Spike was far from done.
Two weekends later, Spike introduced himself to the hoops world at large with his 17-point outburst against Louisville. In the years since, that performance has become less stunning, which is remarkable considering he's only been a full-time starter when injury struck the guy in front of him.
To say Spike made the most out of a limited skill set is to sell him short, because he had serious skills. This is not a pass I've seen anyone else make, certainly not in a college game, and he pulled that out as a freshman in the second weekend of the tourney. It came seemingly out of nowhere—as, quite freqently, did Spike:
Spike's greatest asset was his audacity. He'd launch a shot from a foot inside the halfcourt logo because he could do that. Once he hit such a shot and then did the Sam Cassell big balls dance; if Cassell didn't have full ownership of that move, it could've been Spike's most fitting signature. One of his greatest highlights started by accident and ended with him acting like that was the plan all along:
Despite the above, Spike appeared in constant control. He'd dribble donuts through a defense until an opportunity presented itself. He'd find that extra half-foot of space required to get off his patented one-handed granny layup. He'd leave the center no choice but to respect that damn granny layup and commit a moment before Spike would drop a deft pass to the man the center had left all alone. He'd pick your pocket or your passing lane, then lead a highlight-worthy fast break. He'd weave through the defense and dish off a pass to a player he couldn't possibly have seen:
And, yes, Spike did the proverbial gritty stuff. In his second-to-last game, a rote blowout of Houston Baptist, he didn't hesitate to lay out for a loose ball—as he'd done so many times before—landing on two bad hips that were in even worse shape than we thought. The whole team ran over to pick him up. He shook it off as if it was nothing, then gave us one last spectacular play:
When Spike was on the court, odds were he'd put a smile on your face. He was just as likely to do so off the court:
If there's a player that embodies why we watch the college game, it's Spike Albrecht. While his career ended too soon, it contained more than we ever could've imagined.
[Editor's Note: This ran as the game column after last year's win over Ohio State. When I started thinking about writing a Spike career obit it occurred to me that I was just going to rewrite this.]
2/22/2015 – Michigan 64, Ohio State 57 – 14-13, 7-8 Big Ten
Basketball from the perspective of an Andre Drummond or a Shaq is a simple thing. You come into possession of the ball. You hold it between two fingers, bellow something designed to induce a flight or fight response, survey the various and sundry "flight" responses, and dunk explosively on anyone who chose… poorly. If someone tries to do the same when you are on defense, you fling him into the nearest body of water.
Later, you have a snack.
Basketball from the perspective of Spike Albrecht is a multi-dimensional differential equation in which almost all answers are emphatically wrong ones. To avoid being postmarked to Lake Michigan, Albrecht has to swoop through the lane several times to induce dizziness in the opposition and then find the one local minima that will result in a shot instead of an Ent-shaped man flexing.
He does this regularly.
When he's really dialed in the result has a Globetrotter feel. A few games ago there was a brief referee discussion after Albrecht was fouled and the refs tried to determine whether it was on the floor or not. The thing is: they were probably right it was a pass. It looked like a pass. It felt like a pass.
It felt like a pass that was off by a little bit so instead of just hitting the backboard it grazed the rim. It felt like this for two diametrically opposed reasons. One, whatever it was that Albrecht was doing did not in any was resemble a shot, at least as far as shooting has been understood since World War II. Two, when Albrecht flings balls at the basket like that they're usually a lot closer to going in.
I found out Kenpom's added an "MVP" feature in their box scores because Albrecht locked it down against Ohio State. And, well, yeah: Albrecht out-dueled future top five pick D'Angelo Russell:
- Albrecht: 16 points on 12 shot equivalents, 4 rebounds, 5 assists, 2 steals, 0 TO
- Russell: 16 points on 17 shot equivalents, 5 rebounds, 2 assists, 0 steals, 5 TO
Choosing your favorite Spiketrotters play from this game is difficult: the swooping layup past Amir Williams? The assist he wrapped around after faking the swooping layup so convincingly he momentarily fooled himself? The pinpoint, Brady-worthy fade pass to Bielfeldt off the pick and roll? Slipping in for one of his trademarked Very Sneaky Steals to seal the game?
I dunno man, I like 'em both, and I also like both the others. Watching that kind of performance from Albrecht is like a virtuoso slot receiver performance or a hat trick from one of the 5'8" puck wizards Michigan used to collect like pogs back in the day. It's disproportionately fun.
Movies pack their sportsbits with various people overcoming handicaps for a reason. People watch sports instead of those movies for a reason: it's so much better when a script is nowhere near the proceedings. Not that you could script items like we saw yesterday.
P: "So the little guy, he does what?"
W: "He swoops by a seven-foot dude and flings it up underhand from the baseline! And he makes it! A lot!"
P: "The littlest guy on the court. Shooting one-handed grandma free throws on the run against guys a foot taller than him."
P: "I can't decide whether to fire you or shoot you."
We're all pretty eh on this season, willing to give a guy with eight NCAA tourney wins in two seasons a mulligan when his best two players end up on the shelf after a massive pile of unexpected NBA attrition, but not particularly eager to watch Michigan lose a bunch of games. There's no storming the barricades like football, just a desire to fast-forward to next year.
Albrecht paused that thinking a few minutes in yesterday, giving us something to grab on to now, instead of next year. That thing is man versus space bear, with man improbably winning.
[After THE JUMP: a few bullets from the original post that are no longer relevant.]
ANN ARBOR, Mich. -- University of Michigan men's basketball senior guard Spike Albrecht announced today (Friday, Dec. 11) he has elected to step away from the court for the remainder of the season. He will concentrate on his continued recovery and the rehabilitation process following bilateral hip surgery this past summer.
"This has been the toughest decision I have ever had to make," said Albrecht. "After taking a hard look at what is best for me, and this team, I will be stepping away from the game that has meant so much to me.
"I am so thankful for what Coach Beilein, the assistants and the medical staff have done for me during my career and in particular over the last year while I was dealing with this injury. I just have a little more to go and I really need to take the proper time to finish my rehab.
"The University of Michigan has provided me and my family so much, I don't really even have the words to express my gratitude. This place is truly special and I hope I was able to leave just a little bit of a mark during my career. I cannot thank Wolverine nation enough for all the love and support they have shown me throughout my four years here. Forever and always -- Go Blue!"
"This has been an agonizing decision for Spike, especially at this juncture of the season," said U-M head coach John Beilein. "He has done so much to get back to this point, but his long-term health is what is most important now and in the future. We want only the best for Spike.
"He is a tremendous young man, who has had a very special career. His important role in our 2013 NCAA Tournament run and his incredible performance in the national title game were straight out of a storybook. His sophomore year we would not have won the Big Ten title or made a second straight trip in the Elite Eight without him.
"He has proven time and time again what heart and determination can do. Even last year, he played through so much pain, but held the team together and guided us through tough times."
Albrecht played in 115 career games for the Wolverines. A two-time team captain, he was named Michigan's co-MVP last season after starting 18 of 31 games and posting a career-best 7.5 points per game.
As a freshman, he played in all 39 games and helped U-M reach the Final Four for the first time in 20 years as well as tie the school record for wins (31). It was his 17-point performance in the national title game against Louisville that will see him remembered for years to come.
Albrecht guided U-M to a second straight Elite Eight appearance as a sophomore as the Wolverines lost on a last second-shot to Kentucky to miss a second straight Final Four. That same season, he played in all 37 games and helped the Maize and Blue to its first outright Big Ten title in 28 years.
He would be eligible to take a medical redshirt and return next year, but from the way they’re talking about this it seems clear his career over-over. It is a tribute to Spike how much that utterly sucks.