in town for free camps
Fuller / MGoBlog
The 2015 season was a breakout of sorts for Spike Albrecht: the famously under-recruited junior wasn’t projected to start at any point in his four year career, but because of the injuries to Derrick Walton and Caris LeVert, Spike ascended to starter and became an indispensible presence on the court and one of Michigan’s most valuable rotation players. Muhammad Ali Abdur-Rahkman and Aubrey Dawkins saw the biggest bumps in playing time after the injuries, but Albrecht increased his minutes per game from 26.2 to 38.6 (tied for the most on the team with Zak Irvin for games after LeVert and Walton were sidelined).
Spike showed off more playmaking ability than he had in either of his previous two seasons and became a Vine star with highlights like this:
Plays like that became somewhat common for Spike – Drew Hallett, who posted the Vine above, titled the play “Spike Nash,” something I wrote about at length after Michigan’s win over Syracuse in the ACC – Big Ten Challenge:
Spike attempted a behind-the-head pass (which, if memory serves, resulted in a flubbed Mark Donnal layup) and literally dribbled around the paint a few times in another game so far this season, but this play – a seemingly effortless play that was both audacious and completely necessary – in context, was something else. Firstly, Spike Albrecht is not, nor will he ever be, Steve Nash, a surefire Hall of Famer and one of the more exciting players ever to play the game. Still, there’s been a decidedly Nash-esque quality to Spike’s game this season, even if it’s a $29.99 photo print of an original masterpiece. It’s not hard to envision Spike Albrecht watching hours of Nash highlights on Youtube as a middle-school kid and trying out that nonsense at practice or on the driveway.
Spike’s going to be that guy eventually. He’s currently the elder statesman on the team, but he has almost two entire years of eligibility left in a Michigan uniform. He still has plenty of basketball to give – unlike several players capable of singular brilliance (the Nik Stauskases and Trey Burkes), he won’t be a fleeting season’s worth of memories. I suspect that we’ll have another two years of Spike attempting insane passes that look almost indifferent and while his moments of genius will be much fewer and further in between than those from the stars of the college basketball world, it will be incredibly fun to wait and watch what Spike will do next. At the very least, he’ll probably hit about 40% of his threes, he’ll probably post a gaudy assist-to-turnover ratio, and he’ll probably be a solid player at worst, on the whole.
Spike was one of the most visible silver linings in the wake of Michigan’s disappointing season – he’s an above-average player (particularly on the offensive end) compared to others in his role. To wit, he outplayed future NBA lottery pick D’Angelo Russell in Ann Arbor last year, scored 17 points in half of the national championship game three years ago, and clearly elevated his level of play over the course of the season. Incredibly, he’s played in 107 games as a Michigan Wolverine; Jordan Morgan holds the school record at 140 games and, if he stays healthy, Spike could claim that record as his own.
* * *
Old Man Spike
— LaVall Jordan (@LaVall_Jordan) April 22, 2015
Among the much ballyhooed (and eventually very successful) “Fresh Five” recruiting class, only two are left: Caris LeVert and Spike Albrecht. It’s easy to see, even now, that the watershed 2012 class was instrumental in triggering the renaissance of Michigan basketball – they went to the national title game as freshmen (three started), won the Big Ten by three games as sophomores (with Stauskas and LeVert leading the way), and up to four will eventually be drafted into the NBA. Here are their individual accomplishments:
- Nik Stauskas – Second-Team All American (2014), Big Ten Player of the Year (2014), #8 overall in the 2014 Draft.
- Mitch McGary – Preseason First-Team All American (2014), South Regional All-Tournament Team (2013), Final Four All-Tournament Team (2013), #21 overall in the 2014 Draft.
- Glenn Robinson – Big Ten All-Freshman Team (2013), #40 overall in the 2014 Draft.
- Caris LeVert – Second-Team All Big Ten (2014), Preseason First-Team All American (2015).
- Spike Albrecht – Final Four All-Tournament Team (2013).
As it turns out, Caris and Spike will be the only two to finish out their four years of eligibility at Michigan and – for the first time in several years – the Wolverines will have two senior cornerstones. LaVall Jordan’s tweet above calls an interesting comparison to mind: Zack Novak and Stu Douglass were four year contributors and valuable leaders in their time at Michigan and, like Caris and Spike, were under-the-radar prospects added late in the recruiting process. Beilein’s had success in uncovering gems late – Aubrey Dawkins and Muhammad Ali Abdur-Rahkman come to mind – and they’ve made quite an impact at Michigan.
Albrecht and LeVert have obviously had very different careers, but there’s one interesting factoid that underscores the leadership role Albrecht’s in: Spike’s two years older than the next-oldest Michigan player (LeVert) and has several years of game experience. Because of prep school, Spike will be 23 by the time next season starts, providing a level of veteran leadership that was lacking at times this past season. Last year, he was unexpectedly called on to fill a big role and performed admirably – Spike was a captain as a junior and was eventually named team MVP. His hips were so badly messed-up that he had to have offseason surgery on both, but he played star minutes through the end out of necessity. Hard-hats, lunchpails, and all that.
Additionally, he’s the front-runner for the Robbie Hummel Memorial “That Guy’s STILL In College?” Award given to the Big Ten player who seems to have been around forever more than anyone else in the league.
After the jump, more on Michigan’s floppy-haired cult hero
Hey: tournaments. Softball making the postseason is a given, and even the CWS is kind of expected when they're having a good year. Baseball not so much, but they played themselves in off the bubble. So here we are with an unusually busy late May sports weekend.
Softball's opener is against Alabama on Thursday at 8 PM Eastern on ESPN2. Alabama's 47-13, the #6 overall seed, and one of five(!) SEC teams to make it. All eight national seeds made it to the CWS because softball is way more predictable than baseball. if they win that they will play on Friday at 10:30; if they lose they'll be in an elimination game on Saturday at 3:30.
Baseball kicks off its regional against two-seed Bradley at 2 on Friday. That game is only available on ESPN3; Louisville is the top seed and host. Let's find out about Bradley!
"We don't know anything about Bradley, so we are going in with a blindfold on," Cronenworth said.
Let's have a DB transfer key party. Just days after the Moncrief kerfuffle, Blake Countess announces he'll spend his final year at Auburn. Excellent pickup if you're going to play a lot of zone, but this is the important part.
Auburn will have a Duke, Prince, Queen, King, President and a Countess on the roster in 2015. http://t.co/aiTFaHhPn0
— Brandon Marcello (@bmarcello) May 26, 2015
So they've got that going for them.
The Big Ten floated the “year of readiness” plan mostly as a ploy to get people focused on discussing more academic and student-welfare issues, or what Glass called “less controversial and more doable” reforms.
Nationwide ran an ad during the Super Bowl that started a fierce conversation. The sole purpose of this message was to start a conversation, not sell insurance.
Unfortunately, Jim Delany isn't accountable to anyone. Jim Delany could walk around pooping big scarlet Rs on Big Ten fans and it wouldn't impact his job security. He could jump on the hood of a car and fire 17 scarlet Rs at unarmed passengers and get acquitted. Nationwide bro got future endeavored.
“Matt accomplished a great deal during his time at Nationwide and we wish him the very best in his future endeavors,” Nationwide spokesman Joe Case said.
No such luck for the Big Ten's partisans.
Camp Sanderson yoke up of the year. Can't be summer on a Michigan blog without a picture of a basketball player who has put on an impressive amount of muscle. Memorial Day has just passed, so:
— D.J. Wilson (@Lanky_Smoove) May 21, 2015
That is a big leap, one that should help him a lot as he gets drafted into playing some center this year.
“Once you start your senior year of high school, you should be able to sign at any time,” Johnson said. “The schools have their 85 scholarships, and you can sign no more than 25 in a year. When you sign your limit, you’re through. If you sign a kid and he doesn’t qualify, you lose it for that year. We put the onus back on the kids with better grades and better students, and we stop all the craziness of the hat shows, soft commits, decommits and all that.”
You can't stop a hat show, but he's right on about that. My blue sky version of that goes slightly farther:
- players can sign a non-binding LOI whenever they want
- this LOI commits the school to offering a slot in their class
- the kid can withdraw it at any time until Signing Day
- he can only visit the school he committed to, he has unlimited contact with that school, and other coaches can't call him
It's a bad idea to lock people into commitments before the coaching carousel stops moving in mid-January, but that system gives both schools and players incentives to be up front with each other. Johnson:
“If a kid said he was committed, you hand him the papers. If he didn’t sign, you knew he wasn’t committed. The same thing on the schools. If the kid went in, and they said, ‘You’ve got an offer,’ and the kid wants to sign, (he’d) call their bluff as well."
As GTP says, hard to argue with that logic.
A bit on Hibbitts. I wonder if Michigan went with preferred walk-on Brent Hibbitts over Max Bielfeldt with their last scholarship this year. Once they missed on Jaylen Brown it seemed like they had a spot to keep a guy who is drawing interest from Nebraska and Indiana. Bielfeldt told reporters he would like to stay but that wasn't happening. Illogical, captain.
But then Michigan gets a 6'8" stretch four with mid-major offers. If Michigan thinks they could develop Hibbitts into a player given some time—and their track record is impressive in that department—and they need a carrot, guaranteeing him a scholarship for his first year isn't a bad one.
Etc.: John Calipari has goals man. Harbaugh regret in San Francisco. There are more quarterbacks now. Excellent outside zone primer from James Light. Highly recommend the first comment. Stauskas comes back for the summer. Dawkins and Donnal evaluated.
Douglas MacArthur, Leyte, July 1944
Enjoy your varied and sundry Americana today. We will return tomorrow.
Michigan baseball wins a tense Big Ten championship game against Maryland 4-3 and punches their ticket for the NCAA tournament.
..and you can't have one without the other…
Congrats to the team, who went 4-0 in the tourney to go from the bubble to in. College baseball should not be played at MLB parks.
Georgia's bats were going to heat up at some point in this series, might as well be in their last inning of the season.
..and you can't have one without the other…
On to the Women's College World Series (a best of 8).
— Michigan Softball (@umichsoftball) May 23, 2015
THING NOTES: I should have done these in approximately chronological order but too late now. Wisconsin was three weeks after Northwestern and was Iowa's penultimate game of the year. Maryland, the nonsense game with a ton of empty formations against a DL Iowa could not block, was the week before Northwestern.
Between Northwestern and Wisconsin was a miserable outing against Minnesota (10 for 19, 89 yards in a 51-14 loss) and a 10 YPA facepunching of Illinois.
[After the JUMP: kinda good things.]
Freshman sensation is out the door after a strong World Championships:
— Aaron Ward (@TSNAaronWard) May 21, 2015
You kind of felt this would happen once Larkin started publicly musing on it while the Red Wings were like "whatever you want to do"; with Andrew Copp also gone that is probably Michigan's best two forwards electing to leave before Red Berenson's final year.
That final year projects to be about the same as the last three now.
The Latest On Rashan Gary
Michigan is widely believed to be one of the favorites—if not the favorite—to land the nation's top overall prospect, Paramus Catholic (NJ) DT Rashan Gary. Gary was expected to make a return trip to Ann Arbor this month, and while Sam Webb reports that trip has been delayed, Michigan is still making progress in Gary's recruitment—especially by connecting with his mom ($):
“I talked to Coach Harbaugh and he is a very personable entertaining guy,” Gary’s mother Jennifer Coney said. “We talked for a long while and it wasn’t even about football. It wasn’t about recruiting even though it was a recruiting call. We didn’t need to talk much football because I can find out most of that stuff when I get over there. He talked about wanting to build the man, not just the football player. He talked about academics. He talked about his family. He has six kids and he talked about trying to figure out how he was going to get his family moved over (to Ann Arbor). He doesn’t whether they were going to fly or drive. That’s why he has work all of those hours… to take care of six kids! (Laughter).
“He is an entertaining guy.”
Gary and his mother are eyeing a late June visit, after Rashan gets out of school. He has three unofficial visits lined up for mid-June: Ole Miss, Auburn, and Alabama. Michigan looks to be in very good shape, but they'll have to fend off a long list of power programs.
[Hit THE JUMP for the rest of the roundup.]
Two-parter this [ed-actually we did this last…] week.
1. What was the most painful single attrition loss you remember (Woodson was not painful since you didn't expect him to come back. Neither was Stauskas. Hypothetically losing Trey Burke after one year would have been THE WORST. Guys who were 50/50 only get half points.)?
2. Guy who would have been eligible for the 2015 football team you most miss?
Worst attrition loss ever?
Brian: We're a fun bunch this week. Here is a picture of Denard.
comes with one free Molk
Despite the fact that Mitch McGary went in the first round and there was a pretty decent chance he was going to leave even if the NCAA didn't come down on him like lunatics, it's gotta be him. We got those six tournament games that hinted at his ability, and then he wasn't right during his sophomore season, and then he was gone because he had a soon-to-be-legal substance he was tested for after not playing in a game.
I just needed to have one season of McGary as his effervescent self before he went and blew up NBA twitter. Michigan's most recent basketball season was a magnificent combination of crappy circumstances that prevented McGary's impact from being severe in a program legacy sense... and despite that, his absence pulls at the heartstrings harder than anyone else's.
[After the jump: nothing as anger-inducing as McGary, at least.]
“Sometimes, there's a man, well, he's the man for his time and place. He fits right in there. And that's the Dude, in Los Angeles… But sometimes there's a man, sometimes, there's a man. Aw. I lost my train of thought here. But... aw, hell. I've done introduced him enough.” –The Stranger, The Big Lebowski
In mid-2010 I got hired by a bank to be a
Customer Service Representative teller. This put me on the front lines of the never-ending war between people’s money and the financial organizations that hold it. I learned very quickly that there were two things that could turn a mild-mannered citizen into a venom-spewing troglodyte: bank fees and Rich Rodriguez.
I loved when people came into the bank wearing college gear because it meant I’d be able to easily strike up a conversation about football, and people are a little less likely to verbally assault you when you’re able to find some common ground. The operative word in that last sentence is “little,” but I digress. By the fall of 2010 people were so fixated on the abject disaster that was Michigan’s defense that they willfully ignored how incredible the offense was. This was the fuel they needed to turn the “RichRod isn’t a ‘Michigan Man’” fire into a raging inferno, and it got so out of control that I talked to people who were even criticizing Rodriguez’s wife for not being Michigan-y or Michigan-ish or something crazy like that. At one point someone complained to me about her having blonde hair.
The Microscope of Public Scrutiny was so zoomed in on Rodriguez and everything surrounding him that Dave Brandon was able to make the Free Press look stupid and then lie in wait. At some point in 2010 Brandon’s opinion aligned with the bank’s clients; to them, the Rodriguez experiment had failed. Enter: Brady Hoke.
Hoke represented everything that the anti-Rodriguez movement wanted: familiarity with the program, a defensive background, and the mixture of self-oriented humility manifest in his claim that he’d walk across the country for the job and the program-oriented bravado in the interminable fergodsakes claim.
The honeymoon phase lasted a full season, but by the end of Hoke’s fourth year the program was in a place similar to where he found it, a place all too familiar to Michigan’s fanbase. One side of the ball was above average, but the other side was in such shambles that the team collapsed under the dead weight.
"Once we get the power play down, then we'll go to the next phase. You know, because we're gonna run the power play."
Brady Hoke, 3/23/2011
The transition from Rich Rodriguez to Brady Hoke was like switching from cold brewed coffee to run-of-the-mill drip coffee; a move away from the newer, higher-octane movement and toward what felt more traditional, the tried and true. The fallout from this was immediately apparent in the speculation that one of the most dynamic players to every don the winged helmet might transfer to a school with an offense better suited to his talents (i.e. a school that wouldn’t put him under center and have him hand the ball off).
In what may be one of the most significant events in program history (more on that later), Denard stayed. Al Borges still tried to put Denard under center and Michigan did rep power, but there were enough zone reads incorporated to allow Denard to continue waking up opposing defensive coordinators in cold sweats. You know all of this. You watched it unfold. That also means you watched crimes perpetrated against manpanda and an offense hell-bent on skinning its forehead running against a brick wall before finally, mercifully, abandoning their MANBALL-big-boy-football-noises ideals and exploding out of the shotgun.
This piece is intended to be the counterpoint to the memory’s emphasis on the spectacular. The intent isn’t to accuse, but to take a more calculated look at what exactly happened to Michigan’s offense over the last four years and see where things went well, as well as where and how things stopped functioning.
[After THE JUMP: charts and tables]