NEW YORK — Thomas Robinson says there’s no doubt that Kansas would’ve beaten Kentucky in the NCAA championship game last April in New Orleans had redshirt freshman guard Ben McLemore been eligible.
“Definitely,” Robinson, the rookie out of Kansas averaging 4.9 points and 4.6 rebounds, told SNY.tv before his Sacramento Kings met the Knicks at Madison Square Garden.
“We lost in the last game so that’s pretty much it. He would’ve helped us win it.”
The 6-foot-10 Robinson had 18 points and 17 boards in the title game, but Kentucky beat Kansas, 67-59.
The 6-5 McLemore, then a true freshman, was ruled ineligible prior to the season.
This year, however, McLemore is tearing it up for No. 2 Kansas, averaging 16.1 points and 5.4 rebounds.
In a poll for the National College Player of the Year on ZAGSBLOG, McLemore is the leading vote getter with 42 percent of the votes so far.
Ironically, in another poll for National Freshman of the Year, he ranks third with 18 percent behind Kentucky’s Nerlens Noel and UNLV’s Anthony Bennett.
Still, Robinson says McLemore should be the “No. 1 pick” in this year’s NBA Draft.
Asked how his game would translate into the NBA, Robinson said of McLemore:
“Perfect because right now he’s looking outstanding. He’s still in the system. When he gets outside of that system he’s gonna be even more of a problem.”
Robinson says he stays in touch with McLemore and offers advice when needed.
“Yeah, I talk to him a lot,” he said. “He’s pretty much got it handled, so I don’t try to hassle him about it too much. It’s just normal talk.”
Robinson said he will go back to Kansas during the upcoming All-Star break and watch the Jayhawks play Texas Feb. 16; Julius Randle is also supposed to visit then a week after visiting Texas.
Asked if Kansas can win the NCAA championship a year after losing in the title game to Kentucky, Robinson didn’t hesitate.
“Definitely,” Robinson said.
Still, he understands that while Kentucky was the heavy favorite to win it all last year, this season there appear to be eight or 10 teams who could win a title in Atlanta.
“Last year we pretty much got doubted in the beginning as a team, and I would say midway through the season we was really respected,” Robinson said. “Kentucky was just respected before the season even started.
“This year, you don’t know. A lot of teams are playing great, guys are getting upset every week, so it will be great to see once March comes around.”
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Adam Zagoria is a New York Times contributor and Basketball Insider who covers basketball at all levels. He is the author of two books and is an award-winning journalist whose articles have appeared in ESPN The Magazine, SLAM, Sheridan Hoops, Sports Illustrated, Basketball Times and in newspapers nationwide.
A veteran Ultimate Frisbee player, he has competed in numerous National and World Championships and, perhaps more importantly, his teams won the Westchester Summer League (WSL) championships in 2011 and 2013.
He lives in Manhattan with his wife and children.