When Nerlens Noel went down with a serious knee injury in February, Kansas Jayhawks freshman Ben McLemore became the player many pundits saw as the one to take Noel's spot on the top of draft boards. McLemore has not done himself many favors with his recent play, delivering a major stink bomb in the Jayhawks' 70-58 victory over the North Carolina Tar Heels in the third round of the NCAA Tournament.
McLemore was only able to notch two free throws in the victory, going 0-of-9 from the field and 0-of-6 from three-point land in 24 ineffective minutes. He did have five rebounds, but he had just two assists and turned it over twice. Certainly not the type of effort expected from a guy possibly tabbed to be the No. 1 pick in the upcoming draft.
It's the third straight sub-par performance for McLemore dating back to the Big 12 Championship Game against Kansas State. In a 70-54 victory, McLemore had just five points and three assists on 2-of-7 shooting. He then followed that up with a better but still so-so performance in the second round of the NCAA Tournament against Western Kentucky. In that game, McLemore did manage 11 points and six rebounds, but he shot just 2-of-5 and turned it over four times. It was a positive that he got to the line eight times, but still an underwhelming performance for such a talent.
McLemore could help make up for his recent stretch of poor play with a big performance in the Sweet 16 against the excellent backcourt of the Michigan Wolverines. Playing well against the likes of Trey Burke, Tim Hardaway Jr. and Glenn Robinson III would go a long way in restoring the faith in McLemore as a top pick.
But even if McLemore continues to struggle, he still may not fall down draft boards all that much because of the lack of elite talent at the top of the draft. As ESPN's Chad Ford noted, only Michigan State's Gary Harris and Indiana's Victor Oladipo have really played like top picks in the tournament. And even so, it's somewhat silly to completely judge players based on such a small sample size. McLemore established himself as an efficient scorer over the course of the regular season, and a few bad games here should not hurt him all that much, especially in such a weak draft.