[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.]
This was a game to maximize Spike's utility. He drew Shannon Scott on defense, and Scott barely tried to do anything about the fact he was a half foot taller than his guy. Scott had just four FGAs inside the arc, only one of which he hit. He missed a couple threes and had three assists against two turnovers.
Michigan's had some rough defensive outings of late, but this was a good one. Other than the spate of offensive rebounds early in the second half OSU didn't take advantage of Michigan's size deficiencies.
Hey! Chatman! The moment when everything was truly coming up Milhouse was Kam Chatman tip-toeing the sideline to chase down a loose ball and then finishing a transition layup in traffic, spurring an OSU timeout. Before that he'd finished a truly difficult bucket, spinning to the basket against solid defense and looking for a moment like the top 50 prospect he was in high school. It's more baby step than steps. I'll take it all the same.
Ditto Irvin. Aided by the still-baffling Amir Williams's post-defense-type-substance, Irvin was also a major step up from where he's been lately. He was generating shots for people other than himself—four assists—and driving. He still has a bad habit of always going up with his right hand on any layup, though.
Rough day for the freshmen guards. Lost in the actual offensive efficiency was MAAR and Dawkins combining for just seven points on 12 shots with 4 TOs. MAAR did have four assists.
Even in this year. Michigan's now 7-8 in the league with games against Northwestern and Rutgers on the docket. 9-9 is a thing that could happen even with this roster. That's quite a bottom compared to all the other bottoms Michigan basketball has experienced. Flip a couple of those OT results and they'd have faint tourney hopes, even.