Michigan Wolverines' Success Will Depend on the Play of Manny Harris

Jameson FlemingSenior Writer INovember 26, 2009

KANSAS CITY, MO - MARCH 21:  Manny Harris #3 of the Michigan Wolverines dribbles the ball against the Oklahoma Sooners during the second round of the NCAA Division I Men's Basketball Tournament at the Sprint Center on March 21, 2009 in Kansas City, Missouri. The Sooners defeated the Wolverines 73-63.  (Photo by Jamie Squire/Getty Images)
Jamie Squire/Getty Images

ORLANDO-- Some teams are built to succeed even when their best players struggle.

Michigan is not one of them.

Let's face it, Michigan isn't going to score easily if Manny Harris isn't in the game or even just creating.

There's a reason Manny Harris never left the floor after halftime and the first half only received a quick rest around a time out according to coach John Beilein. Harris's play is critical to the effectiveness of Michigan's perimeter based attack which hoisted 27 three-pointers in a 83-76 OT win against Creighton on Thanksgiving.

If DeShawn Sims struggles like he did, Michigan's offense can only come from what Harris creates. There's really no one else on this team yet that can effectively create his own shot. Darius Morris isn't at the point in his development yet to be able to finish easily and Laval Lucas-Perry generally gets the majority of his points by being a beneficiary of Harris's play.

Harris faces the challenge of never being able to take a possession off and on Thanksgiving he was up to the task.

Harris showed late against Creighton how critical he is to the Wolverines' success.

Down the stretch as both teams looked like they were losing their legs, the junior wing turned it up a notch.

After the game, Harris claimed he never got tired despite a frenetic pace Creighton established with a full-court press the lasted most of the game.

It showed.

During the majority of the second half as Michigan lost its lead and began to fall behind, Harris was often not the focal point of the offense. In the final five minutes, Harris said he made it his prerogative to take over the game.

Harris had a hand in almost every offensive possession. As Michigan's top passer, best slasher, solid shooter, and glass crasher, Harris embraces all four of those roles and pushed his many skills to the forefront when the game was on the line.

"DeShawn [Sims] wasn't shooting the ball that well so there wasn't a lot of gaps for Manny [Harris]," said Beilein. "We had to create the gaps to open things up for Manny."

Harris opened things up for himself by simply playing with more composure. Harris stopped forcing shots and passes. Harris regularly finds himself in the lane with the defense collapsing. He's got two options at that point, continue to drive, take the low percentage shot and hope for the foul or find a teammate who's standing wide open because two or three defenders have keyed in on Harris.

Harris mostly chose the latter.

It's not just what Manny Harris can do that concerns Michigan's future opponent Marquette.

"They ran 25 different offensive sets and four different defenses," Marquette coach Buzz Williams said. "That's a lot to learn in the next 18 hours."

There were two Marquette coaches scouting Michigan next to me on press row. The one assistant repeatedly pointed out the complexity of the sets as Michigan uses a lot of ball reversal and what the coaches called point guard rejection.

Essentially, Michigan runs plays where the point guard passes the ball off, the Wolverines set it the play up so the player has nowhere to go with the ball so the ball automatically returns to the point guard while the rest of his team runs through the set.

This creates some deception as the defense thinks the set play is beginning when the wing player receives the first pass from the point guard.

For more on college basketball, follow Jameson on Twitter . He'll be live in Orlando on press row for the entire Old Spice Classic.