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 NEHoopNews.com and can be followed on Twitter: @terrence_payne

Bubbles brewing with season on horizon

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INDIANAPOLIS — With the coronavirus pandemic already forcing changes for college basketball, a bubble may be brewing in Indianapolis.

Indiana Sports Corp. released a 16-page proposal Friday that calls for turning the city convention center’s exhibition halls and meeting rooms into basketball courts and locker rooms. There would be expansive safety measures and daily COVID-19 testing.

The all-inclusive price starts at $90,000 per team and would cover 20 hotel rooms per traveling party, testing, daily food vouchers ranging from $30-$50 and the cost of game officials. Sports Corp. President Ryan Vaughn said the price depends on what offerings teams or leagues choose.

“The interest has been high,” Vaughn said. “I think as conferences figure out what conference and non-conference schedules are going to look like, we’re we’re a very good option for folks. I would tell you we’ve had conversations with the power six conferences, mid-majors, it’s really kind of all over the Division I spectrum.”

Small wonder: The NCAA this week announced teams could start ramping up workouts Monday, with preseason practices set to begin Oct. 14. Season openers, however, were pushed back to Nov. 25 amid wide-ranging uncertainty about campus safety and team travel in the pandemic.

There is already scrambling going on and some of the marquee early-season tournaments have already been impacted.

The Maui Invitational will be moved from Hawaii to Asheville, North Carolina, with dates still to be determined and organizers clear that everyone involved “will be in a bubble environment that limits their movement and interaction outside the venue.” The Batttle 4 Atlantis has been canceled. The Cancun Challenge will be held in Melbourne, Florida, not Mexico.

More changes almost certainly will be coming, including what to do with the ACC-Big Ten Challenge.

“I think we’re past the guesswork on whether we play 20 conference games or more than that,” Purdue coach Matt Painter said Friday. “We’re trying to get everybody set like in terms of MTEs (multi-team events), figuring out when to play the ACC-Big Ten challenge.”

Painter, who was part of the NCAA committee that recommended how to start the season, noted part of the uncertainty stems from differing protocols imposed by campus, city and state officials.

In Indianapolis, Vaughn believes the convention center, nearby hotels, restaurants and downtown businesses, many within walking distance of the venue, could safely accommodate up to 24 teams. The 745,000-square foot facility would feature six basketball courts and two competition courts.

Anyone entering the convention center would undergo saliva-based rapid response testing, which would be sent to a third-party lab for results. Others venues could be added, too, potentially with more fans, if the case numbers decline.

If there is a taker, the event also could serve as a dry run for the 2021 Final Four, also slated for Indy.

“It’s not going to hurt,” Vaughn said. “I can tell you all the planning we’re doing right now is the same for a Final Four that’s been scheduled here for any other year. But it would be nice to have this experience under our belt to see if it can be done.”

Maui Invitational moving to North Carolina during pandemic

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ASHEVILLE, N.C. — The Maui Invitational is moving to the mainland during the coronavirus pandemic.

One of the premier preseason tournaments on the college basketball schedule, the Maui Invitational will be played at the Harrah’s Cherokee Center in downtown Asheville, North Carolina.

Dates for the tournament announced Friday have yet to be finalized. The NCAA announced Wednesday that the college basketball season will begin Nov. 25.

This year’s Maui Invitational field includes Alabama, Davidson, Indiana, North Carolina, Providence, Stanford, Texas and UNLV.

All teams, staff, officials, and personnel will be in a bubble environment that limits their movement and interaction outside the venue.

Burton eligible at Texas Tech after 2 seasons at Wichita State

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LUBBOCK, Texas — Junior guard Jamarius Burton has been granted a waiver from the NCAA that makes him eligible to play this season for Texas Tech after starting 52 games the past two seasons for Wichita State.

Texas Tech coach Chris Beard announced the waiver Thursday, which came five months after Burton signed with the Big 12 team.

Burton has two seasons of eligibility remaining, as well as a redshirt season he could utilize. He averaged 10.3 points and 3.4 assists per game as a sophomore at Wichita State, where he played 67 games overall.

Burton is from Charlotte. He helped lead Independence High School to a 31-1 record and the North Carolina Class 4A state championship as a senior there.

NCAA season set to open day before Thanksgiving

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The NCAA men’s and women’s basketball season will begin on Nov. 25, the day before Thanksgiving.

The Division I Council voted Wednesday to push the start date back from the originally scheduled Nov. 10 as one of several precautions against the spread of coronavirus.

The later start date coincides with the decision most schools made to send students home from Thanksgiving until January out of concern about a potential late-fall and early-winter flareup of COVID-19. Closed campuses could serve as a quasi bubble for players and provide a window for non-conference games.

The maximum number of regular-season games has been reduced from 31 to 27. The minimum number of games for consideration for the NCAA Tournament was cut from 25 to 13.

Teams can start preseason practices Oct. 14 but will be allowed to work out 12 hours per week beginning Monday.

No scrimmages against other teams or exhibitions are allowed.

In other action, the council voted to extend the recruiting dead period for all sports through Dec. 31. In-person recruiting is not allowed during a dead period, though phone calls and other correspondence are allowed.

The men’s and women’s basketball oversight committees had jointly recommended a start date of Nov. 21, which would have allowed for games to be played on the weekend before Thanksgiving. The council opted not to do that to avoid a conflict with regular-season football games.

The council is scheduled to meet again Oct. 13-14 and could delay the start date and change other pieces of the basketball framework if circumstances surrounding the virus warrant.

UConn’s Tyrese Martin granted waiver to play this season

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STORRS, Conn. — UConn swingman Tyrese Martin, who transferred from Rhode Island in April, has been granted a waiver that will allow him to play for the Huskies this season.

The 6-foot-6 junior averaged 12.8 points and 7.1 rebounds and started every game last season for URI, where he was recruited by current UConn coach Dan Hurley.

NCAA rules require undergraduate transfers to sit out a season, but the organization has been more lenient in granting waivers during the pandemic.

Martin, 21, is expected to compete for playing time at UConn on the wing as both a guard and small forward.