ANN ARBOR, Mich. — The Michigan basketball team hasn’t forgotten about one of its former teammates.
When Michigan (18-10, 8-7 Big Ten Conference) hosts No. 14 Purdue (23-5, 12-3) at 4 p.m. Saturday at the Crisler Center, the Wolverines will see Spike Albrecht face to face for the first time in a different uniform.
A few of the Wolverines remain in touch with Albrecht, even though he’s on a different team and in a different state. Michigan point guard Derrick Walton talked to Albrecht Thursday night, and isn’t startled anymore by the fact that Albrecht is no longer his teammate.
“I’ve watched multiple games of his and it’s not too weird,” Walton said Friday. “The first couple times, it was weird, but I’m pretty used to it now. It was a typical FaceTime conversation, just catching up. We’re friends outside of basketball, and basketball was the last thing we talked about.”
Derrick Walton on Purdue guard Spike Albrecht
Albrecht now plays for Purdue as a graduate transfer. Many remember Albrecht, a former Michigan guard, for his heroics in the 2013 Final Four, including scoring 17 points in the national championship game against Louisville.
They may also remember his spunkiness, and a certain tweet he sent out to a certain Michigan-born supermodel.
@KateUpton hey saw you at the game last night, thanks for coming out! Hope to see you again ?
— Spike Albrecht (@SpikeAlbrecht) April 9, 2013
But it wasn’t all fun and games for Albrecht at Michigan. He missed the second half of last season after undergoing hip surgery, and went to Purdue as a graduate transfer after the season — a controversial transfer, at the time, because Wolverines coach John Beilein initially did not allow him to transfer to another program in the Big Ten.
Coming off the bench for the Boilermakers, Albrecht averages 1.8 points and less than 13 minutes in 21 games this season; he missed seven games in December because of a back injury.
Now, he returns to Crisler Center for the first time since March 5, 2016, when he was honored as one of the Wolverines’ departing seniors.
“It’s definitely gonna be weird, that’s for sure, but I’m also looking forward to it,” Albrecht told reporters Thursday on a teleconference. “I’ve had a lot of great memories at Michigan and in Crisler (Center), and I’m excited to get back in there and play in front of the fans and see a lot of familiar faces.”
Unlike some of his more technologically savvy players, Beilein said he hasn’t spoken with Albrecht this season.
“We’ve texted a couple times this year,” Beilein said. “I would love to have time to talk during the season with all my former players. There’s been a couple games in January, a couple of their wins I texted him, and he’s done the same with us.
“I don’t watch the stats but I will occasionally look at the box scores of other teams. I’m so consumed with just Michigan and our next opponent.”
Michigan’s next opponent is Purdue, and Albrecht.
“I wish him nothing but the best,” Michigan forward/guard Zak Irvin said, with a wry smile. “But I hope he leaves here with a loss.”
Tournament projections for Michigan
With four wins in its last games, including a 64-58 win Feb. 16 against No. 16 Wisconsin, Michigan’s chances of making the NCAA Tournament are good — and could improve even more in the final eight days of the regular season.
As of Friday afternoon, three major mock brackets have Michigan in the NCAA Tournament picture:
- ESPN.com’s Joe Lunardi has Michigan at No. 9 in the West Region.
- CBSSports.com’s Jerry Palm also has Michigan at No. 9 in the West, but still marks the Wolverines as a bubble team.
- USA Today has Michigan at No. 9 in the South.
“There’s been a sense of urgency these last couple months,” Walton said. “Just knowing that guys need to have their best days and want to have their best days to continue through the season and into March.”