The NCAA Tournament this year has been full of incredible play by superstars. Aaron Craft’s heroics helped Ohio State past Iowa State. Russ Smith has been scoring a ton while Louisville cruises. Surprising La Salle got great scoring performances from Ramon Galloway.
Other elite players have yet to pull their weight.
Several teams from power conferences are in the Sweet 16 without amazing play from their superstars. Kansas (No. 1 seed), Duke (No. 2 seed), Florida (No. 3 seed) and Michigan (No. 4 seed) need more from their top performers if they want to cut down the nets.
The biggest bust so far in the tournament is Ben McLemore, the freshman phenom for Kansas. The 6’5” frosh averaged 15.8 points per game in the regular season. McLemore is averaging 6.5 points per game so far in the Big Dance.
In Kansas’ victory over eighth-seeded UNC, McLemore scored two points while shooting 0-of-9 from the field. He has yet to make a single three-pointer in the tournament.
Kansas coach Bill Self has relied on Jeff Withey’s size so far, but he’ll need better guard play moving forward. Senior guard Travis Releford provided plenty of scoring in the win against UNC, but he has been inconsistent. Releford scored in the single digits in the four games leading up to the tournament.
Simply said, Kansas needs McLemore to score at his normal clip if they want to get past tougher teams.
Kansas will face that tougher test this weekend when they play the Michigan Wolverines. Michigan is led by Naismith candidate Trey Burke.
Burke hasn’t exactly been Naismith-worthy so far. He scored a season-low six points on 16.7 percent shooting in Michigan’s second-round victory over South Dakota State. Other players led Michigan in scoring in both victories.
Burke needs to be the man for Michigan, as he was in their March 3 victory over Michigan State. He hasn’t shown that level in the tournament yet.
Duke’s Mason Plumlee also played far below his typical level of play in a win over Creighton. Plumlee averaged a double-double (17.2 ppg, 10.0 rpg) on the season but put up 10 points and five rebounds in the third round. The last two times he scored that few points, Duke lost to Virginia and Maryland.
Plumlee needs bigger performances to avoid another Duke loss.
Returning to the South bracket, Florida’s star guard Kenny Boynton has underperformed so far. He has a total of 18 points, two assists and three rebounds in the past two games. The senior guard needs to shoot better than 25 percent from the field, which was his percentage against the Golden Gophers. Boynton has been inconsistent all year, but Florida needs him to make shots consistently to make it to the Final Four.
Without improved play from these stars, their teams may find their run to the round of 16 far less sweet.
*All statistics provided by ESPN.com.
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