to play football, not to play trumpet
[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.
Attrition, Expected and... Not So Expected
In a move that should surprise no one, three-star in-state ILB David Reese announced his decommitment from Michigan yesterday so he can find a program that will allow him to enroll early:
— REESE3⃣ (@Dreese18) December 10, 2015
The coaches assuredly saw that coming. That wasn't the case with the decommitment of three-star CA QB/ATH Victor Viramontes over the weekend, per 247's Clint Brewster ($):
The de-commitment came as a huge surprise to Michigan as coach John Baxter just saw Viramontes and reported back to Harbaugh that the visit went extremely well.
We have been told that Viramontes was given bad information from a member of his camp that Michigan wouldn’t give him a shot at quarterback and he would immediately be a fullback or linebacker, which is completely false.
Sam Webb discussed the Viramontes situation extensively on his radio show Monday; alum96 was kind enough to write up a summary on the board that's well worth reading. The upshot: while Michigan wasn't expecting Viramontes to leave the class, they don't consider him a must-get—they'll continue to pursue him but at this point there are other uncommitted prospects who are higher priorities.
[Hit THE JUMP for the rest of the roundup.]
The 2013 Motor City Bowl between Pitt and Bowling Green, via StadiumJourney blog.
In our roundtable yesterday I suggested a new way of calculating bowl eligibility. It struck a chord, and it's offseason, so I thought I'd do a follow-up.
The Problem: With 40 (plus the NC) bowls, the bowl field has now expanded to 80 teams, or 62.5% of what's currently 128 FBS schools. However the old six-win provision for bowl eligibility remains mostly intact, disqualifying mostly mediocre schools who played much harder schedules in favor of bad, barely eligible, barely FBS teams.
This system doesn't just create less watchable bowls. It incentivizes schools to pad their non-conference schedules with noncompetitive opponents and FCS programs, and incentivizes conferences to play fewer conference games lest they disqualify more of their teams from bowl play. The result is a less competitive, and thus less interesting, football season.
My Proposal: A simple points system:
- 3 points for a win over any team in the final CFP Top 25
- 2 points for a win over any Power 5 school not included above
- 1 point for a win over any FBS school
- -1 points for a loss to any FCS school
I initially proposed 7 points as the cutoff for eligibility, but as one reader correctly predicted, this is still too exclusive. So I amend that to the highest bowl points level you need to fill the available bowl games is your bubble region.
[After the jump: I try this out with the 2015-'16 bowl field]
You said this would be a good basketball team.
What are YOU doing here, bolded alter-ego?
I'm bothering you. You said this would, and I fake quote, "not be a festering trash-heap."
I didn't say that but I did imply it. This was not correct, in a general sense. I mean, they did beat Texas and NC State. We may be overreacting here. But a top 25 team this ain't.
My feelings are bad now because you. Hate you.
Okay. Do you still want to talk about this, or was that sufficient for your purposes?
We can talk about it. What is going on, man?
Center is killing Michigan on offense, too
We are taking it as read that the center position is a disaster on defense. Any large, slightly peevish man is spend games against Michigan flexing so much he looks like he's in a bodybuilding competition.
But wait, there's more: Michigan absolutely does not trust their centers to run the pick and roll and it's killing their offense. Michigan got one roll dunk from Ricky Doyle after a second-half timeout, and other than that bupkis. Moritz Wagner got a layup blocked when he could have dunked the ball early and then Michigan didn't try it again until Beilein probably yelled at them about it.
When the pick and roll isn't working Michigan gets stuck on the outside all day because they don't have dribble penetrators, and the ensuing barrage of bad threes in the first half is the result.
This is a big disappointment since Ricky Doyle was very promising as a pick and roll finisher last year, when he hit 77% at the rim. This year he's down to 65% and, more importantly, he's got an astronomical 32 TO rate—a third of the time he uses an offensive possession it's to thunk the ball to the other team. Last year he was at 12. Maybe he got sweatier?
Wagner's shown some promise here—he used that super-quick layup to get buckets against NC State's enormous shot-blockers. But after that initial failure Michigan didn't go back to him.
Perimeter defense is abominable
I kind of expect it from Duncan Robinson. Ace made a good point on twitter: he is better as a bench player because his minutes generally come when the opponent has substituted as well, which helps Michigan hide him on D. Also, Robinson is shooting 60% from 3 on a burgeoning significant 50 attempts.
But that's a problem and then Dawkins is barely better against the starters. LeVert is better this year but still gambles a lot, and it's not paying off much. Once that happens and rotation starts bad things result.
Possible solutions on the perimeter can't shoot
Michigan needs four guys who are reasonable shooters from three on the court to run this offense. Kam Chatman, who did a nice job on D against NC State, is 0/8. MAAR is 2/11. That contributes to the offense bogging down.
This goes double when neither guy really facilitates anyone else's offense. MAAR has an early-Irvin-esque assist rate, which is frustrating because he's able to get to the basket better than anyone else on the team. He shoots decently inside the arc; Michigan needs him to set some other guys up to facilitate the offense.
Zak Irvin is broken
Shooting 20% from three, getting killed on the boards, bleah. He has seemingly not recovered to get in the flow of the game from his back injury, and that's a major downer. Hopefully these upcoming games give him an opportunity to shoot himself hot.
LeVert is not quite an alpha dog
Caris LeVert is very good at basketball, and statistically he's one of the best players in the country. I just think that sometimes, in the wrong matchup, you can shut him down. His ability to get into the lane is so-so, so the right defender can fend him off and then he has a game like he did against SMU. That did not happen to Trey Burke or Nik Stauskas. Maybe this is a one-off bad game—hopefully nothing is quite as bad as that. I think Caris is a very very good basketball player who might be better as a second banana.
I think our goals have reset to "make the tournament," which kind of sucks, but Michigan should be able to do that. A weak Big Ten gives you some pause but there's going to be a game or three against a tough opponent in which Duncan Robinson goes 11/10 from three, and that should be enough.
Friday, December 4, 2015
#12 Michigan 6, Wisconsin 4
UM 0 UW 1 PPG 06:28 Kunin from Hughes & Davison
Wisconsin’s lucky this play even unfolds. Not only is the pass to the point almost picked, it bounces and almost rolls out of the zone. Hughes pulls it across the blue line just before it trickles over.
Nothing unconventional here; Michigan sends a defender up to cover the point, so Wisconsin passes to the wing. Meanwhile, Shuart starts to retreat, trailing a Wisconsin player toward the front of the net.
With Warren defending high and Shuart tracking a guy in the equivalent of man-to-man coverage, there’s a big seam across the ice that’s inviting a quick pass from wing to wing.
As Kunin receives the pass he sees two options; it looks like he wants to pass, but he wisely decides not to force the puck to the front of the net and instead shoots.
The pass fake delays Nagelvoort for a portion of a second, but he’s still able to lock down the nearside post. Kunin rips a perfect shot over his shoulder; Nagelvoort doesn’t have a chance at that, and the shot probably doesn’t happen if Shuart peels off the guy he’s decided to play press-man on.
[After THE JUMP: Someone needs to add a team-specific modifier to the COY’s “we want moooore goals” chant]