Tough finish for injured Michigan seniors LeVert, Albrecht
ANN ARBOR, Mich. (AP) Three years ago, Caris LeVert was a skinny freshman whose outside shooting helped Michigan beat Syracuse in a national semifinal.
Then classmate Spike Albrecht stole the show for a half in the title game against Louisville - a memorable performance, even in defeat.
''It feels like last week,'' LeVert said. ''It all goes by really fast, but I'm really grateful for those experiences that we had.''
LeVert and Albrecht are seniors now, and this season is not ending the way either of them envisioned. They'll both be honored Saturday when the Wolverines wrap up their regular season by hosting No. 16 Iowa, but neither is expected to play. Albrecht had hip surgery last offseason and has played only eight games in 2015-16. LeVert announced this week that his season is done, too. He's been dealing with a lingering leg issue for two months.
Both will leave an impressive legacy at Michigan - but it's easy to wonder what might have been if they'd remained healthy.
''I always say my first two years . I thought it was just like a walk in the park: We're going to win a lot of games, not much adversity. Everything's going great when you're winning,'' Albrecht said. ''Last year and this year, a little bit of a reality check.''
Albrecht and LeVert arrived as part of a terrific freshman class that also included Nik Stauskas, Glenn Robinson III and Mitch McGary. Michigan went to the Final Four in 2013, and LeVert scored eight points in a tight victory in the semis.
Against Louisville in the title game, Albrecht scored 17, all in the first half. The Wolverines lost, but the backup point guard's shooting display was one of the highlights of that tournament.
LeVert's production took off as a sophomore, and Michigan won the Big Ten in 2014, falling a game short of another Final Four trip. Although Stauskas, Robinson and McGary departed for the NBA after that season, LeVert's improvement left the Wolverines seemingly in good shape for the future.
His health wouldn't cooperate.
LeVert missed the final 14 games last season because of a foot injury, and he's out now with a lower left leg injury. He's played only once over the past two months, and with the Big Ten tournament approaching and Michigan on the NCAA bubble, there wasn't much time left for the Wolverines to work him back into the rotation - even if his health had improved.
''With there being only one regular-season game left, and then postseason play, I think our time was definitely running out,'' LeVert said.
Now he's being shut down. LeVert said he doesn't think he'll need any procedure on his injury, so it's just a question of getting healthy and eventually pursuing a pro career.
Albrecht's future is more uncertain. He announced in December that his season was over, but he's played in fewer than 30 percent of Michigan's games in 2015-16, meaning he could redshirt and play somewhere next season.
Albrecht says he wants to put off any conversations with coach John Beilein about that until after the season. He doesn't want to be a distraction while the Wolverines still have games to play. He also said he wouldn't want to come back and take up a scholarship if he doesn't feel like he can help the team.
So there's a good chance that Albrecht, like LeVert, has played his final game at Michigan. Saturday's ceremony will certainly be a bit bittersweet, but these two team leaders are still hopeful that the Wolverines can finish strong without them.
''I think our young guys have done a great job, and they're growing and getting better every day,'' Albrecht said. ''But it's just tough when you don't have seniors.''
Follow Noah Trister at www.Twitter.com/noahtrister