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October 29, 2013

Albrecht looks to build on last year's experience

The world of college sports is a funny, mysterious place. And every once in a while, something so inexplicable, it will go down in lore as a classic moment.

And the name Spike Albrecht will certainly carry a special weight with Michigan fans for a long time.

Twelve minutes into the Wolverines' National Championship showdown with Louisville, Albrecht had already hit bit shot after big shot - a career-high seven points to his name.

He finished that game with a whirlwind 17 points, made national headlines and even caught the attention of supermodel Kate Upton, who tweeted about his performance and boosted his number of followers by thousands of basketball fans across the country.

For Albrecht, it was an unforgettable night.

But, with three years left in Ann Arbor and plenty of basketball to play, he wants to make sure it's not a once-in-a-lifetime moment.

"The game experience I had last year, I think that helped me more than anything I could do in the offseason," Albrecht said. "Having that experience and knowing what the coaches need and expect from you help you out."

Albrecht is vying for starting point guard minutes this season with true freshman Derrick Walton.

"Spike is a really, really smart player," fifth-year senior forward Jordan Morgan said. "He does a lot of tricky things, and he makes people make smart plays, too. He has a certain responsibility with the basketball, and he had a four- or five-to-one assist-to-turnover ratio in practice right now. He has a quiet confidence about him that encourages his team."

Although the Wolverines have lauded Walton for his summer progress, saying he has been one of the biggest surprises of the offseason, Albrecht has been with the program for more than a year now.

He knows what the Wolverines need from their point guard - and, more importantly, he understands how Michigan coach John Beilein expects him to accomplish it.

"Coming in, even though he was a prep school player, our offense and defense was somewhat new to him in certain areas," Beilein said. "He has a much better understanding of people's roles on the team and how we feed off each other's action, both offensively and defensively. That's what I really like.

"He has a better feel for the big picture of what's going on in a game than last year, when he was just trying to remember, 'What's this play vs. that play?'"

Tuesday night's exhibition game vs. Concordia will give both point guards plenty of time to show what they have learned this offseason.

But it may give the Wolverines a chance to experiment a little bit with the point guard position.

Whereas National Player Of The Year Trey Burke put the program on his back last season, Michigan may take a more committee approach, because guys like sophomores Caris LeVert and Nik Stauskas, who each made huge strength gains this offseason, have shown the ability to play with the ball in their hands.

"Spike and Derrick have been point guard since the first time they play bitty ball," Beilein said. "Any time you have lots of pressure defense, full-court, you can put those two out there and it turns into pressure offense. That's one option. That is one position where we can go a lot of different ways, because Caris and Nik have pretty good handles. Glenn is one of our top assist guys in scrimmages so far. A lot of times, we're just going to let them play to the vision and strengths they have."

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