By Mick McCabe Detroit Free Press
ATLANTA — Almost.
Spike Albrecht almost won a national championship for every little guy who was told he was too short to play Division I basketball.
The 5-feet-11 freshman from Crown Point, Ind., whose only other scholarship offer came from Appalachian State, almost cemented a place for himself in NCAA lore Monday night before a record crowd of 74,326 fans in the Georgia Dome.
The kid who looks like Ollie from the movie “Hoosiers” almost gave Michigan its first national championship since 1989.
Instead it was a Louisville substitute — Luke Hancock — who led his team to the NCAA championship, by scoring 22 points in an 82-76 victory over Michigan.
Albrecht single-handily kept Michigan in the game in the first half by scoring 17 points after national player of the year Trey Burke picked up his second foul and was forced to the bench with 15:34 left in the half.
It was a watershed moment for the Wolverines. Burke had already scored seven points and U-M was on a roll.
It took Albrecht only 27 seconds before he threw up a three-point bomb that swished through the nets and the Wolverines were safe.
But no one could have imagined what was beginning to happen.
Albrecht, who had scored a career-high seven points in the regional final against Florida and six points in Saturday’s Final Four semifinal win over Syracuse, was playing the championship game like he was back home on his driveway in Crown Point .
Albrecht hit shot after shot, nailing all four of his attempts behind the three-point line.
His lone miss of the first half came on a drive to the basket, but it didn’t deter him. A minute or so later, he drove into the land of the giants and scored.
As a ball handler, Albrecht is no Burke, but in the 16 minutes he played, he committed only one turnover .
Were it not for a late explosion from Hancock, who scored all 16 of his first-half points in the final 3:33 of the half, Michigan might have had a comfortable lead at the half instead of clinging to an ominous 38-37 advantage.
With a well-rested Burke ready for the second half, it didn’t seem like Albrecht would see much playing time unless Burke got in serious foul trouble.
But he was called upon midway through the second half. Louisville actually guarded Albrecht like he was Burke, checking him well beyond the three-point line.
He missed his only two shots of the half — a three-pointer and a drive — and the clock struck midnight for the Wolverines and the most unlikely player to set foot on the court.