It's been nearly four years since Louisville and Michigan played one of the best national championship games in recent memory. There is just one player who saw the court in that game who is still playing college basketball, and he was one of the evening's most prominent stars.
Averaging just 1.8 ppg heading into the championship game, backup Michigan point guard Spike Albrecht stunned the sports world by lighting Louisville up with 17 first half points to help the Wolverines gain the upper hand early in the contest. To put the unlikelihood of the performance in some perspective, Albrecht had scored just 24 total points in his team's 19 Big Ten Conference games, and in the Wolverines' previous five NCAA Tournament games, he'd totaled just 19 points.
Albrecht hit four 3-pointers in the first half against U of L. That's the same total number of beyond the arc shots he had made from Christmas through the end of Michigan's regular season.
Of course, the freshman's heroics weren't enough for Michigan, as Luke Hancock and Louisville answered the bell and walked out of the Georgia Dome with an 82-76 win and the program's third national title. Still, Albrecht solidified his status as a Final Four legend by attempting to parlay his unlikely fame into a shot with Kate Upton after the game.
Things with Upton didn't work out, and neither did the thought that Albrecht's big night would springboard him to college stardom. He averaged just 3.3 ppg for Michigan in another reserve role the next season as a sophomore, and then had a more down than up season as a full-time starter on a bad Wolverine team in 2014-15.
@CardChronicle we met spike albrecht in Ann Arbor and thanked him for the ring pic.twitter.com/iui2Kj8vWw— Labs. (@Lightning_Labs) October 19, 2014
When struggles with a surgically repaired hip brought his senior season to a close after just nine games a year ago, Albrecht announced that daily life had become too painful, and as a result he was retiring from basketball.
"I want to go out there and play so bad so I had to come to grips," Albrecht said at a press conference last December. "You see the way I play, I'm not afraid to sacrifice my body but mentally, in my heart of hearts, talking to my family, friends and doctors, I just knew it was the right thing for me and what's best for the future.
"It's tough both physically and mentally. But if I had to choose one or the other, it's a lot tougher to come to grips mentally."
Albrecht remained with the team through the season, and could be seen throughout the year cheering louder than anyone else on the Wolverine bench. He was so vocal that he nearly drew a technical foul near the end of the team's eventual loss to Notre Dame in the NCAA Tournament.
It was then that he knew he wasn't ready to walk away from the game just yet.
After the loss to the Irish, Albrecht walked into the downtrodden Michigan locker room, pulled out his phone, and texted his dad.
"I'm way too competitive to let my career end with me on the sidelines" was the message he sent.
Two weeks later, Albrecht announced that he would be using his final year of eligibility (he was eligible for a medical redshirt because he only appeared in nine games last season) to play for Matt Painter at Purdue. Despite his heroics on the grandest of stages, Albrecht left Ann Arbor with career averages of just 3.9 points and 2.0 assists per game over 115 career appearances.
When Albrecht walks into the KFC Yum Center Wednesday night to face the opponent that brought out the performance of his life, he'll do so with averages similar to the ones he sported in Atlanta on April 8, 2013. He has appeared in all six games for the Boilermakers, but has failed to score more than seven points or play more than 22 points.Three weeks into the season, he's averaging 2.8 points and 2.0 assists per game on a team that gets the bulk of its offensive production from its post players.
Having said all that, no one wearing red will be shocked if No. 55 in black and gold goes off on Wednesday night. As long as the final result is the same as well, it'd be fun to do a little reminiscing.