The Kansas Jayhawks hope chalk will be on their side this evening, as they look to eliminate the fourth-seeded Michigan Wolverines and advance to the 2013 NCAA Elite Eight. Getting to this point hasn't been easy, however, with star player Ben McLemore struggling throughout the tournament.
After the round of 32, he is looking to rebound from a rough night last week against North Carolina.
The NBA Lottery pick shot 0-of-9 from the field against the Tar Heels, scoring a measly two points from the free-throw line while taking the form of a cheerleader for almost half the game, playing only 24 minutes. The Jayhawks won 70-58 thanks to the timely shooting of Travis Releford and defense of Jeff Withey.
Overall, McLemore has been inconsistent in Kansas' first two games in the tournament, scoring 11 against Western Kentucky in the first round.
Now in the Sweet 16, he and Kansas fans are ready to move on from two lackluster performances.
In an article by ESPN's Jason King, McLemore said he is confident heading into the showdown with Michigan that his previous troubles are not on his mind.
It's been a struggle, but I don't let things get to me. I've just been talking to myself, talking to the coaches. They just tell me to play free—the same way I've been playing since the beginning of the year.
For a man averaging almost 16 points and five rebounds, that's a good plan.
Who will win tonight's matchup between No. 4 Michigan and No. 1 Kansas?
McLemore has always been a humble player and does not look for the spotlight. Now that he's in the thick of an NCAA title race, it appears as if the magnitude of the situation is catching up with him.
"I've got to go out there and play free, with an open mind, and have fun," he said in King's article.
And, according to McLemore's Twitter page, he is, "A Humble person and so Hungry." That's a good mixture when the pressure is on.
Michigan is the perfect matchup for McLemore to prove himself, especially on the defensive side of the ball. In an article by Kevin Armstrong of the NY Daily News, Self says he "hasn't seen a better backcourt" than Michigan's. The Kansas perimeter players must step up and play the game of their lives.
It all boils down to this: If McLemore can make his outside shots and play defense on whichever Michigan star he is asked to stop, Kansas will win. McLemore needs to siphon the inner NBA star from within himself and perform like he did during the regular season. If he does that, Withey, Releford and Elijah Johnson, the other dangerous players on Kansas' roster, will fit their parts as well, and Kansas will move on.