All season long, Ben McLemore was the man for Kansas.
Yet now—when his team needs him the most—he's been nothing other than just another guy trying to make a name for himself out on the court.
McLemore was impressive nightly for the Jayhawks during the year, and was the biggest reason behind their No. 1 seeding in the NCAA tournament this year, but unless he can get his scoring going in the postseason this year, Kansas could well find itself eliminated against the No. 4 Wolverines.
Michigan, after all, isn't struggling for points, and will be a huge test for the Jayhawks' offense—especially if McLemore isn't hitting his shots once more.
The freshman forward averaged a stellar 15.8 points and 5.3 rebounds per game during the regular season. What was perhaps more impressive was the 49.4 percent he averaged from the floor in that time as well as his 41.6 percent from beyond the arc.
However, those numbers have all but abandoned McLemore in March Madness.
McLemore has just 13 points and 11 rebounds in the Jayhawks' first two games, with his turnovers (six) more than his buckets made (two) so far.
What's perhaps most scary is the zero-for-15 performance that McLemore had against North Carolina, which included six unsuccessful three-point attempts.
The Jayhawks have covered his shooting inconsistencies well through the tournament so far, with various players stepping up across the court.
Yet the reality is that once they hit a team with a truly explosive offense—like Michigan—then they'll need to have McLemore playing his best.
Otherwise they'll be nothing but a blip to the streaking Wolverines.
Led by Trey Burke and Tim Hardaway Jr., Michigan is on a roll in the NCAA tournament, and will be looking to extent their attacking dominance here.
They are extremely athletic and cohesive as a team, and have the ability to blow an opponent out of the water in transition.
The Wolverines are the exact team that the Jayhawks do not want to be playing if McLemore—their best scorer—is in the middle of a cold streak.
For without him, they'll be incredibly hard-pressed to win this one.
Jayhawks coach Bill Self knows exactly how important it is that McLemore starts shooting well, saying earlier in the week that "he's gotta see the ball go in the hole." (per newsobserver.com) After Self benched McLemore against UNC during the second half because his offensive production was just killing them, you get the feeling that he knows how crucial McLemore can be.
If McLemore can't snap out of his cold streak and knock down the chances that he gets, Kansas most likely won't be able to stop the Michigan offense.
But if McLemore does start firing once more, and starts shooting his way out of the slump, then the Jayhawks will have a huge chance in this one.
They are, after all, the No. 1 seed in the South for a reason, and could prove that here with a big win. But only if McLemore plays like the man he's been for the Kansas this year.
"Any shooter," McLemore said earlier, per newobserver.com. "One shot—they get their mood going."
That'll be Kansas' prayer in the Sweet 16.
Can Ben McLemore take Kansas through to the Elite Eight?
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