Who steps into the rotation and how do the Jayhawks adjust without Ben McLemore?
First let's start with the good news, Ben McLemore's injury appears minor. When no. 23 fell to the floor grabbing at his leg in pain Allen Fieldhouse pretty much went from sounding like one of the greatest college basketball environments in the country to resembling the tee box at the Master's. McLemore is one of the most dynamic players to wear a Kansas uniform in quite awhile and the prospect of losing him was enough to make everyone stop and think. Fortunately, he walked off the court and the news is good.
McLemore is listed as day to day with a mild ankle sprain and Bill Self is quoted as saying that he should be fine. Given the potential of this team, the potential of Ben McLemore, hopefully the entire Jayhawk staff shows extra caution when reintroducing him into the lineup. Let this ankle heel up, let it get back to 100%, AND then reintroduce McLemore into the Jayhawk rotation. That might mean that McLemore sits against Texas this Saturday. Hopefully it doesn't mean he misses a game in Manhattan next Wednesday, but if it does, this team can still win the Big 12 and a healthy McLemore down the stretch is more important than making a comfortable regular season Big 12 title a comfortable proposition.
The fact is this team is good enough to win the Big 12 without him, and they are more than capable of overcoming a minor setback once he is back at 100% and in the lineup. When looking at the prospect of potentially playing without McLemore for a game or two, what is the backup plan? The most obvious solution seems to be a shift by Elijah Johnson to the shooting guard spot with Naadir Tharpe getting the nod at the point. Given the improvement and play of Tharpe that almost seems like a no-brainer. Tharpe is only getting better and his play has provided further optimism for the Jayhawks this season.
That does however mean that Kansas either has to find another guard to move into the rotation or go big in order to rest EJ, Travis Releford or Tharpe. The two other guards that have come of the bench on occasion have been Andrew White and Anrio Adams. Both of these layers have seen VERY limited action and neither has looked particularly comfortable at this level to date, especially from a defensive perspective. Does this present an opportunity for Bill Self to give these two a little bit of a trial by fire and perhaps find another option on the bench? In theory this is a one, two game proposition at most, but what if we needed to look deeper down the bench later in the year. Beyond Naadir Tharpe, is there a capable back up plan in the backcourt for the Jayhawks? No one is going to replace Ben McLemore, but could we find serviceable play and expect core group of senior starters to step up if necessary?
Let's finish with the good news again, Ben McLemore's injury is described as minor and he is listed as day to day. That means the Kansas freshman could be back Saturday or he could miss limited action and the Jayhawks will be back at full strength very soon, but for the first time fans had to think about the what if's, even if only for a moment.