Kansas Basketball: Ben McLemore's Scoring Will Keep Jayhawks on Top of Big 12

Ian HanfordFeatured ColumnistDecember 23, 2012

LAWRENCE, KS - DECEMBER 15:  Ben McLemore #23 of the Kansas Jayhawks in action during the game against the Belmont Bruins at Allen Fieldhouse on December 15, 2012 in Lawrence, Kansas.  (Photo by Jamie Squire/Getty Images)
Jamie Squire/Getty Images

Entering the 2012-13 season, everyone knew that Ben McLemore was going to have to be the Kansas Jayhawks' leading scorer.

Elijah Johnson would facilitate the offense, and Jeff Withey would provide a formidable defensive presence, but McLemore would have to score for the Jayhawks to be successful.

Not only has McLemore done that, but he's exceeded expectations. Aside from a nine-point performance in Kansas' season opener, he's been in double figures in the other 10 games.

That's allowed him to establish himself as one of the nation's most dynamic perimeter scorers, but it also eases any concerns involving Kansas' team.

The Jayhawks are going to be at the top of the Big 12 all year. Oklahoma State, Baylor and possibly Kansas State will challenge them in the long run, but McLemore takes the Jayhawks to a different level as a team.

It's a given that Kansas is going to play staunch defense. With that part of its game locked down, finding a reliable go-to scorer is really the only battle that the team ever faces.

Because McLemore has proven himself to be even better than expected, the team can lean on him more than they thought that they would be able to, and that becomes more obvious as each game passes.

Saturday's win over Ohio State was the best example. The gifted 2-guard put down 22 points in Columbus, stifling the first hostile crowd of his career. He didn't shy away from the challenge, showing that he's more than just a scorer.

McLemore's leadership on the offensive end allows every other Jayhawks player to fill their regular role. That gives the team structure and makes Bill Self's game plan more clear on both ends of the floor.

Without him, someone like Withey or Johnson would be forced to play out of their element, which would hurt the entire team.

As McLemore's stock continues to rise, Kansas will too. This team appears ready to make another epic run atop the Big 12 and deep into March.

Without McLemore doing his thing, that wouldn't be possible.