Final Four

Michigan Wolverines' Albrecht reacts after a three point basket against the Louisville Cardinals during the first half of their NCAA men's Final Four championship basketball game in Atlanta

Spike Albrecht’s first half performance isn’t shocking to those that know him

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Luke Hancock captivated the Final Four with his 3-point shooting and the heartwarming story he carried with him to at Atlanta. But for the first 2o minute of Monday night’s national championship game, it was all about Michael “Spike” Albrecht.

He entered the game after player of the year Trey Burke was hit with his second foul. The 5-foot-11 point guard from Crown Point, Ind. used college basketball’s biggest stage to breakout. In the first half, Albrecht knocked down four 3-pointers en route to 17 points, leading Michigan to a 38-37 halftime lead. Shocking to the majority of the country, as Spike’s shooting sparked more than 46,000 tweets in an hour span, but his clutch play was nothing new to those who know him.

“The thing about Spike is, he is unaffected by the stage,” said John Carroll, who was Albrecht’s coach at Northfield Mount Hermon (Mass.) last season. “Despite the venue, he plays like its his backyard. It’s all the same to him.

“He was raised to be modest and humble. He is as a person and that translates over as an athlete. He operates in a calm and comfortable place.”

Carroll saw this firsthand last season in Albrecht’s post grad year at NMH. Playing in the arguably the best high school basketball league in the country, the New England Preparatory School Athletic Council (NEPSAC), Albrecht emerged as a star in the most crucial games.

In the NEPSAC tournament, Albrecht hit several 3-pointers to defeat prep power St. Thomas More (Conn.) in the title game, earning tournament MVP honors for his 23-point, nine-assist (one turnover) performance. In the semifinals he went head-to-head with A10 Rookie of the Year Semaj Christon and Brewster Academy (N.H.) — a school that produced six Division I players that season — Albrecht had 12 points, eight assists and one turnover while closing out the win with free throws in the remaining seconds. He defeated Michigan teammate, Mitch McGary.

“I guess that’s how Michigan got on him in the first place was that Mitch suggested Spike to the Michigan coaching staff,” Anthony Dallier, Albrecht’s NMH teammate said.

Albrecht was down to two schools when it came time to pick a college: Michigan and Appalachian State. Division II teams thought they had a shot at him. Albrecht even sat down with the Williams College coaching staff after NMH played the school’s jayvee team. Williams plays in Division III.

“He explored everything,” Carroll said. “We decided early on there wasn’t one school he wasn’t going to listen to. A lot of teams were calling on him, but they were all gun shy to pull the trigger.”

Northfield Mount Hermon’s two-guard offense helped Michigan pursue Albrecht… that and the fear of losing Burke to the draft.

“It was right place, right time, right moment,” the NMH coach added. “When they saw him it wasn’t difficult to forecast what he would do for them.”

Dallier and others watched the first half of Monday’s game from Albrecht’s old dormitory on campus during the scheduled 8-10 p.m. study hall. As they went nuts when three after three sunk through the net, none were too surprised.

“When we needed something to happen, he was the guy that could do it,” Dallier said. “I wasn’t surprised. His role on the Michigan team was different, but I knew he had stuff like that in him.”

If Burke does bolt for the draft, it might not be all bad. It might be Albrecht.

Terrence is also the lead writer at and can be followed on Twitter: @terrence_payne

Poor officiating puts a black-eye on a thrilling, memorable Final Four

NCAA Final Four Michigan Louisville Basketball
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ATLANTA — This year’s Final Four was as good of a Final Four as you will ever see.

All three games were thrilling, capped off by one of the most entertaining basketball games that I’ve watched in a long, long time. And frankly, it was a perfect way to end this season, one that reinvigorated many-a-jaded college hoops fans with great games, better finishes and a year where it seemed physically impossible to dislike the best players in the country.

The tournament needed this kind of a finish. After what was an overwhelmingly boring tournament — outside of Dunk City, of course — we closed it unforgettable fashion. I mean, seriously, Spike Albrecht scoring 17 points in a half, only to be outdone when Luke Hancock hit four threes in the span of two minutes? What in the freakin’ world?

The problem that will be overshadowed, however, is that breathtaking hoops wasn’t the only season-long trend that continued into the Final Four. Horrific officiating, particularly in the biggest moments of the game, managed to weasel it’s way into the Georgia Dome.

It started with the mythical jump ball that Hancock was somehow able to earn in the final seconds against Wichita State when it looked like Ron Baker had gained control and given the Shockers a chance to tie on the last possession. It continued later that night, as Jordan Morgan was given credit for taking a charge that was dangerously close to being a block.

And then on Monday night, it was the worst call of them all.

On arguably the best defensive play of the season, Trey Burke was called for a foul as he went up to block Peyton Siva’s breakaway dunk attempt.

Burke got it clean. Check it out for yourself:


That’s a block.

It was called a foul.

And the swing in momentum more-or-less ended any chance Michigan had to come back, because Peyton Siva hit both free throws to put Louisville up 71-64, a lead that they eventually extended to 76-66.

Now, Michigan may not have come back. They may not have won the game anyway. But they certainly didn’t have any favors done for them with yet another missed call.

It was a problem that we ran into far too often this season. It was a problem that showcased itself on the biggest stage in college hoops.

Can we please do something to fix this?

You can find Rob on twitter @RobDauster.

Louisville-Michigan classic gave NCAA tournament the game it needed

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Louisville’s 82-76 win against Michigan on Monday shot into one of March Madness’ legendary games thanks to the hot hands of Luke Hancock and Spike Albrecht, amazing dunks and incredible pace. Add it all up and it allowed the NCAA tournament to end on a note that will leave a memorable impression on fans’ minds — not a small thing when it comes to a tournament that didn’t have many memorable games until Monday.

At least, that’s what Dan Patrick says.

One Shining Moment: 2013 NCAA Tournament edition

Michigan v Louisville
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Another NCAA Tournament in the books. Another month full of last-second shots, upsets, historic runs and, eventually, the crowning of a national champion. This season, it’s the Louisville Cardinals.

For your enjoyment, it’s this year’s version of the iconic “One Shining Moment” by Luther Vandross. As always, it’s full of the best moments of the NCAA Tournament.

It’s been a great ride, everyone.

Follow David Harten on Twitter at @David_Harten

Title game loss shouldn’t cloud Trey Burke’s amazing college career


ATLANTA — Trey Burke is leaving Atlanta with plenty of hardware.

The uber-talented Michigan point guard won every Player of the Year award that you can win, receiving trophy after trophy, posing for photo-opp after photo-opp, going from press conference to press conference to talk about the season that he had over the last five months.

And what a season it was.

Burke averaged 18.5 points and 6.8 assists. His efficiency numbers were superb despite being responsible for handling the ball on seemingly every one of Michigan’s possessions over the course of the season. He was the focal point of every defensive scheme, somehow managing to remain the engine that made the nation’s best offense run. He led a team full of freshmen to the national title game.

But there was only one piece of hardware that Burke wanted. And thanks to an 82-76 loss to Louisville in the national title game, he didn’t get it.

“It hurts a lot,” Burke said after the game. “Just to play for the national championship, it hurts so much.”

“You know we fought.”

Yes, we do.

MORE: Photos from Monday night

Burke, quite literally, left it all on the floor. He drove headlong into the lane and got knocked to the floor twice in the final minutes, spending every second he could milking the landing as he tried to catch his wind. After one possession where he went one-on-one against Russ Smith, trying to once again single-handedly lead Michigan back from a seemingly insurmountable deficit, he drew a foul and stepped to the line, grabbing his shorts as his chest heaved.

“There was never a point in time where we gave up,” he said.

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In all likelihood, this was the last time that we’ll ever see Burke suit up for the Wolverines. He was all-but out the door last season before a change of heart led him back to campus. You don’t think that, after a season where he’s the consensus Player of the Year and almost a lock for the lottery, he’ll be declaring for the draft?

And there-in lies the shame of it all.

MORE: Now this was a game for the ages

 Not that Burke is going pro. I think he’s making the right decision. As the saying goes, strike while the iron is hot, and Burke’s iron will never be hotter than it is right now.

The shame is that the lasting memory that most will have of Burke is with his head down, slowing walking off the court as the Cardinals celebrate, streamers and confetti bursting from the Georgia Dome rafters.

Not me.

The memory of Trey Burke that will always stick with me will be late in the first half, after Spike Albrecht had just beaten Louisville off of a high-ball screen, getting to the rim and finishing a layup over Gorgui Dieng for his 17th point of the game. That shot put the Wolverines up 33-21, their biggest lead of the game. Albrecht, the seldom-used back-up point guard who finished with a grand total of 24 points in all of Big Ten play, came sprinting back to the sideline, as fired up as you’ll ever see a basketball player.

MORE: Luke Hancock was the most touching story of the Final Four

The first person to meet him, sprinting out to midcourt, was Burke.

Because when Burke was recruited to Michigan, he was that guy. He was supposed to be the seldom-used back-up to Darius Morris, the guy that paid his dues for a couple of years before getting a shot to beat out the next John Beilein point guard recruit for a chance at a starting job. But Morris went pro earlier than expected, and Burke was suddenly forced into the starting job, where he thrived.

Where he grew into an all-Big Ten talent as a freshman and the Player of the Year and a lottery pick as a sophomore, all as a kid that had originally committed to Penn State.

That ascent into greatness is how I’ll remember Trey Burke.

And I hope you will as well.

You can find Rob on twitter @RobDauster.

Luke Hancock, not Kevin Ware, was most touching story from Final Four

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ATLANTA — With all due respect to Kevin Ware, he was not most heart-warming story from this Final Four.

And don’t get me wrong here. What he went through — and the way that his Louisville teammates responded — was incredible. The horrific injury, the tears on the court, the message of inspiration from a college kid whose leg had, quite literally, snapped in half on the court was nothing short of amazing.

But when it’s all said and done, Ware is going to be fine. We’ll see him play basketball again, maybe as early as the start of next season.

Luke Hancock’s dad may never have the pleasure of seeing him play basketball again. He’s sick. The family did not want to disclose his illness, but it’s bad enough that Hancock’s father almost couldn’t make it to Georgia.

He did, and what he saw was straight out of a dream. Hancock scored 20 points on Saturday night, including 13 in the final 12 minutes, as he made every big play down the stretch to lead a comeback against Wichita State to reach the title game. That alone was the kind of performance that would make Hancock a tournament legend and a hero in Louisville for the rest of his life. He’ll never sit down at a bar in that city and have to pay for his own beer.

What made the performance all the better was that Hancock isn’t a highly-touted recruit. He’s not an all-american and he didn’t have blue-bloods beating down his door while he was in high school. Before he went to Hargrave Military Academy for a prep year, he didn’t have a single scholarship offer. He wound up playing for George Mason for two seasons, but ended up transferring to Louisville — where his former prep school coach is an assistant on Rick Pitino’s staff — when Jim Larranaga headed south to Miami.

Hancock is Louisville’s sixth-man, the veteran leader and the strongest presence in the locker room. He’s a guy that has spent the entire season dealing with the painful recovery that comes with major shoulder surgery. He averaged 7.7 points on the season. He’s anything but a star on a team that includes Peyton Siva, Russ Smith, Gorgui Dieng and Chane Behanan.

But Saturday night wasn’t even Hancock’s best performance of the Final Four.

On Monday, Hancock once again led the Cardinals with 22 points, but it was a two minute stretch late in the first half that firmly entrenched his position in March Madness lore.

After Spike Albrecht put on a show, scoring 17 first half points while Trey Burke was buried on the bench with two fouls, Hancock single-handedly led the Cardinals back. He hit one three. Then another. Then two more, each one deeper than the last. By the time the halftime buzzer had sounded, Louisville had cut the Michigan lead to just 38-37. Without that flurry of long-range bombs, Louisville wouldn’t be leaving the Georgia Dome with a ring.

For his troubles, Hancock was named Final Four Most Outstanding Player, the first player to win that award while coming off the bench.

And he did it all in front of his father.

“It’s been a long road,” Hancock said. “There’s really no way to describe how I feel that my dad was here. It’s hard to put into words. I’m so excited he was here.”

“I always look at him after games and ask him: ‘How was that?'” Hancock added. “And he just smiled and said, ‘It was great.'”

You can find Rob on twitter @RobDauster.