For Michigan to make a run at an NCAA Tournament bid this
weekend in Indianapolis, many things must be clicking for the
Wolverines. And it starts with the players who touch the ball
first.

It’s no secret that Michigan’s guard play has not
lived up to expectations this season, as last year’s Big Ten
Freshman of the Year Daniel Horton and former Michigan Mr.
Basketball Dion Harris have not thrived as much as many predicted.
Horton has seen both his scoring average and shooting percentages
drop, while Harris has failed to emerge as a consistent threat as
the conference season has progressed.

Both players seem to spend a lot of their time on the offensive
end shooting beyond the 3-point arc instead of penetrating in order
to create shots. For a team with a free-flowing offensive plan like
Michigan, that’s an even bigger problem.

But there’s still a chance for Horton and Harris to help
the Wolverines accomplish what they had set out to do this season.
Both played up to their potential on Saturday in Michigan’s
win over Northwestern. Horton, instead of settling for 3-pointers,
drove inside, scored 14 points and looked like the player he was
last season.

“I think I’m just going to go out there and play
like I’ve done the last two games,” Horton said.
“(Against Northwestern), I thought I was more assertive
— I went to the basket and was just more
aggressive.”

After a season when Horton has gone from being Big Ten Freshman
of the Year to not even being an All-Big Ten honorable mention
selection, Horton has started to change his role in practice,
attempting to take more control of the team.

“He’s shown more leadership, not for the guards, but
for everybody,” said sophomore guard Ashtyn Bell, who works
with Horton and Harris in practice. “He tells the guys what
to do more often now.”

While Michigan leads the conference in both steals and blocks,
it will have fewer chances to create scoring opportunities through
its defense as tournament play tends to favor a half-court game. So
Horton’s ability to create will be paramount.

“As Daniel played well at Northwestern, we looked like a
different ball club,” Michigan coach Tommy Amaker said.
“I think the confidence of our team was raised to a different
level when he was playing at high level. If we build on that, then
we can continue to grow.”

Starting in place of Lester Abram against Northwestern, Harris
also played a starring role, being much more aggressive. Harris has
struggled in adjusting to Big Ten play during the second half of
the conference schedule, but after his performance on Saturday, he
may get another chance to start on Friday.

“I have to adapt to the way defenses are playing
me,” Harris said. “I’m not getting open looks on
the catch. I really have to work on the mid-range game, instead of
just sitting out there shooting threes.”

The challenge for both Horton and Harris to stay aggressive
starts against a shallow Iowa team.

“If we get aggressive and get some of their guys into foul
trouble, that would be really big for us,” Abram said.

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