Ben McLemore's Hot Shooting Biggest Key to Kansas' NCAA Tournament Success

Patrick ClarkeCorrespondent IMarch 22, 2013

LAWRENCE, KS - MARCH 02:  Ben McLemore #23 of the Kansas Jayhawks shoots a free throw during the game against the West Virginia Mountaineers at Allen Fieldhouse on March 2, 2013 in Lawrence, Kansas.  (Photo by Jamie Squire/Getty Images)
Jamie Squire/Getty Images

The No. 1 seeded Kansas Jayhawks will go as far as freshman shooting guard Ben McLemore can lead them this March.

McLemore, a 6'5" guard from St. Louis, has zero NCAA tournament games under his belt. However, he will be the No. 1 option for the top-seeded Jayhawks, who will need every one of his 16.4 points per game this March if they hope to advance to the Final Four out of the South region.

All indications are that the first-year star, who accounted for 20 percent of the team's field-goal attempts this season, will deliver for Kansas in the second and third rounds in Kansas City this weekend. He's shooting 51 percent from the field and 44 percent from downtown this year. Meanwhile, McLemore is one of the top shooters in all of college basketball at the foul line, connecting on 87 percent of his free throws.

Even in the Jayhawks' five losses during the regular season, McLemore was impressive, averaging 18 points per game on 52 percent shooting from the field in those games.

With that being said, McLemore has struggled from beyond the arc in Kansas' five losses, hitting just 10 of 27 three-point attempts (37 percent). Bill Self's squad can survive a 1-of-6 or 0-of-4 three-point effort from the freshman against No. 16 Western Kentucky, but not against teams like Florida and Georgetown on a neutral court.

Two of the top contenders in the South region, No. 3 Florida (10th) and No. 5 VCU (16th) rank inside the top 20 nationally in made three-pointers this year, while Kansas ranks 142nd in the country in that category. 

With McLemore accounting for one-third of the Jayhawks' made three-pointers this season, his ability to get and remain hot from behind the arc will be the biggest key to Kansas' NCAA tournament success in 2013.

Therefore, if McLemore struggles in the later rounds—going 0-for-6 from deep like he did in a loss to TCU earlier this season—the Jayhawks could be going home sooner than expected. Even a team like No. 8 North Carolina (32nd in made three-pointers) could wipe out Kansas in the round of 32 behind the strength of its outside shooting.

This is the biggest stage McLemore has ever played on, and his inexperience will have him and Kansas walking on shaky ground in the NCAA tournament this March.


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