Can Ben McLemore Recapture His Form?

USA TODAY Sports

Potential #1 overall pick Ben McLemore has had a rough start to the NCAA Tournament. Can he recover in time to help lead the Jayhawks to the final four?

I mentioned this in the North Carolina recap, but how many teams can take an 0-9 day from their most talented player and still advance to the Sweet 16? The Jayhawks have quietly won a lot of games in which McLemore has struggled, but the time for doing that might be done with as the road to Atlanta and beyond is extremely tough from here.

McLemore started off as a guy who took a lot of midrange jumpers, but slowly has adapted to become a lot more efficient scorer, taking 31% of his shots at the rim and 43% from three. He shoots 72% at the rim and 42% from three, so it's easy to see why he leads the team in scoring.

To be sure, McLemore has been great this year: he has an eFG just under 60% while taking 24.6% of the shots while on the floor. For comparison's sake, Travis Releford has the 9th best eFG in the nation at just over 64% while taking just 15.5% of the available shots. Or, to put it another way, Michigan led the Big 10 in eFG and has the 2nd best offense in the country, and Ben McLemore has a better eFG than everyone on the team except for Glenn Robinson III, who shoots about as often as Releford (but not as well).

Still, there's no doubt that McLemore has struggled at times this year, especially on the road in Big 12 play when he seemed content to float around the perimeter and not look for his shot at all. He seemingly fixed it towards the latter part of the end of the regular season, but in the postseason the problems have resurfaced a bit. A quick look at his field goal attempts per game in the last 11 contests:

WIthout the Iowa State outlier when Elijah Johnson stole the show, there is a pretty clear pattern of Ben McLemore taking fewer shots during the Big 12 tournament and NCAA tournament, and I'm not too sure why. Is he less confident? To help find out, let's look at his 5 game running eFG averages during that time:

So a couple of average to poor percentages bookend really really good shooting streaks from McLemore. I can't figure out if his rough stretch towards the end of the Big 12 season made him timid, or if he doesn't want to always assert himself with 4 other Seniors in the starting lineup or if he thinks he can just turn it on whenever he wants.

It is a bit overblown to suggest that McLemore doesn't shoot enough, I think, as he takes more shots than everyone else on the team. The big worry for this weekend, for me anyways, is that 42% of his shots are from three and 26% are mid range jumpers. This isn't bad in and of itself because he is an amazing shooter (42% from three) but playing in Cowboys Stadium with that insane backdrop (and only the second time he will be playing in a dome) could cause some more struggles for the Freshman.

Either way, he's had a week of practice to adjust to the NCAA tournament, and even if he is shooting poorly (or barely shooting) he requires one of the other team's top defenders to guard him. This in turn pulls attention away from Johnson and Releford, and gives Withey room to operate down low. It's important to remember this: that he is valuable regardless of how well his numbers say he is playing. Still, I think we are due for one of those 30 points on 15 shots games, don't you?

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