After last season, Spike Albrecht’s name was on the tip of the country’s tongue after hitting up supermodel Kate Upton following Michigan’s loss to Louisville in the national title game. The sophomore had a first half for the ages, scoring 17 points with a flurry of 3-pointers. His sophomore season ended less dramatically, but Albrecht still had a solid season backing up freshman Derrick Walton at point guard. The Crown Point, IN native wasn’t always productive, but was his usual reliable self in limited minutes.
More than his on-court exploits, Albrecht was a steady, solid leader for the Wolverines this season. The point guard sacrificed plenty, working extensively with Walton at the beginning of the season to get the freshman ready to play even though he knew it would mean fewer minutes for himself. Walton, after Michigan’s victory over Tennessee in the Sweet Sixteen, said it was Albrecht who traditionally calmed the team down in the huddle near the end of games when even John Beilein was getting frantic. Michigan has had plenty of talent come and go the past few years, but Albrecht is, and will continue to be, the consummate program player.
- Spot-up shooting: If there is one thing we know Albrecht can do, it’s shoot the 3-pointer. The sophomore has been lights out throughout his two years at Michigan, even though his percentage from beyond the arc dropped drastically this season to last. Last year, Albrecht shot an absurd 55 percent from three — this year, he was down to 39 percent. This is largely due to him taking about twice as many threes as he did last year thanks to his elevated playing time. Oddly enough, he was significantly better shooting guarded jumpers than unguarded. He had a 72 eFG% on guarded catch-and-shoot attempts compared to just 43 eFG% on unguarded attempts.
- Ball security: An area where Albrecht certainly improved from last season to this season was taking care of the ball. The point guard was insanely reliable with the ball during Big Ten play, registering eight turnovers for the entirety of conference play. As with most of the bullets in this post, Albrecht’s numbers come with a caveat: his lack of playing time. It’s a lot easier to not turn the ball over when you’re not in the game. Still, for a point guard playing consistent minutes in the Big Ten, a turnover percentage of just over 13 is nothing to sneeze at, and neither is an assist-to-turnover ratio of 4.6.
- Heads-up play: Albrecht gets points for heady play on both sides of the ball. Michigan could always count on Albrecht to make the smart play when he was in the game. Because he wasn’t on the court much, Albrecht found ways to be opportunistic on offense and defense. Think of his pass to Glenn Robinson III over the Iowa defense when the Hawkeyes traveled to Ann Arbor. After the game, John Beilein said it was one of the bigger plays of the season to that point. Defensively, Albrecht’s opportunism in limited minutes made for some eye-popping defensive score sheets. The sophomore wasn’t always staying in front of his man, but he had a nose for the ball and caused turnovers at the right time.
Room for Improvement:
- Pick-and-roll offense: Michigan’s two best pick-and-roll players this season were Nik Stauskas and Caris LeVert — the two and three men in the lineup, respectively. Neither of Michigan’s point guards were particularly adept at the offensive set that had been dominated by point guards for the past few seasons in Ann Arbor. Both Walton and Albrecht suffered from their lack of height. The fact is, Albrecht just wasn’t productive in the screen-and-roll. According to Synergy, pick-and-roll plays involving Albrecht as the ballhandler scored 0.79 points per possession – good for just the 36th percentile nationally.
- Defense: As we noted above, Albrecht certainly had his moments defensively. But all in all, his lack of size and lateral quickness made him a liability against good point guards. Nobody played particularly well in either of these games, but Albrecht’s defensive effort at Indiana and at Iowa were ones to be forgotten. Albrecht used experience and smarts on the defensive end all year to be serviceable, but he had a tough time staying in front of quicker guards and got taken advantage of in his fair share of games.
- Getting to the rim/free throw line: Albrecht isn’t Trey Burke, obviously; he isn’t going to drive to the basket and score on seven-footers somehow, someway. But it would help his game is Albrecht could get in the lane with some consistency, maybe to draw fouls or for kick-outs. He doesn’t need to bang with the big boys on a consistent basis, just enough to show that he is a threat to score or get hacked at the rim. His free throw rate of 28 percent was third-lowest on the team, behind only Zak Irvin (obviously) and Jon Horford (huh?).
Quotable: Before the season started, John Beilein talked about two aspects of Albrecht’s game that sum him up nicely: “Spike right now – I think the other day he had 20 assists and two turnovers. I’m saying, ‘I’m still mad, Spike, about those two turnovers,’ because I thought they were turnovers that he knew better than to make. Spike’s teams traditionally win in scrimmages no matter who we put him with.”
Spike Albrecht showed flashes this season: against Arizona, at home versus Minnesota and seven assists when he got the start at home against Iowa were good examples. But with such limited minutes, he wasn’t able to show his ability on a consistent basis. It will be interesting to see how Albrecht’s career trajectory unfolds at Michigan, with Derrick Walton having locked down the point guard duties for the foreseeable future. Regardless, Albrecht is reliable, steady and a great leader – now the oldest player on Michigan’s roster. In a college hoops world that has John Beilein overhauling rosters every season, Albrecht is like the beleaguered coach’s security blanket.