Kansas Basketball: Remy Martin is the key to Jayhawks’ title game success

Remy Martin has had an up-and-down year for Kansas basketball, but his play will be the biggest key to the Jayhawks’ success in the national championship game.

Remy Martin‘s lone season with Kansas basketball has been a roller coaster before he even stepped foot on campus.

His commitment after transferring from Arizona State, combined with the return of Ochai Agbaji for his senior season, immediately cemented the Jayhawks as one of the preseason title favorites. Martin, who was a two-time first team All-Pac-12 selection during his time with the Sun Devils was selected as the Big 12’s Preseason Player of the Year.

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Then things went a little off script. Martin’s play was inconsistent — he went scoreless against Stony Brook and UTEP — as he struggled to find his fit on a veteran team, learn Bill Self‘s system and, as it was later revealed, struggled with a bone bruise in his right knee.

It was clear that injury was limiting Martin’s explosiveness, which in turn limited his effectiveness. He was relegated to a bench role and then, following KU’s 80-62 loss to Kentucky, the decision was made to keep Martin out to let his knee heal.

The 6-foot, 175-pounder wound up missing a month and was slowly brought back up to speed. He played at least 20 minutes in a game for the first time in a month and a half in the Big 12 Tournament semifinals on March 11 against TCU, and it also marked the first time he scored at least 10 points since December 18.

Since then, Martin is averaging 13.1 points per game, including back-to-back 20-point games against Creighton and Providence in the NCAA Tournament.

“We’ve said all along that we had a chance to be a much better team than what we displayed, even though we had a really good year, just because of him,” head coach Bill Self said at the Final Four press conference.

Kansas didn’t need much from Martin in its 81-65 victory over Villanova in the Final Four — he finished with three points on 1-of-5 shooting — as Ochai Agbaji and David McCormack led the charge.

All signs point to the Jayhawks needing the best version of Martin in the national championship game against North Carolina.

Elite guard play has helped the Tar Heels turn their season around with Caleb Love and RJ Davis emerging as stars. Love took over in UNC’s victory over Duke on Saturday and both have recorded 30-point games in the NCAA Tournament. Their individual shot-making and ability to break opposing defenses down off the dribble is vital to Carolina’s offensive success.

No one expects Martin will put the clamps on either player. But the Jayhawks do need Martin to counter when they have the ball. Though he comes off the bench, the guard is the only one on KU’s roster who can consistently create shots for himself or others off the bounce.

“Remy obviously gives us a burst of speed and he’s the quickest guy on our roster that we need,” Self said. “He can make a basket or make a play when you really don’t have anything going.”

A lot has been made about David McCormack‘s impact for Kansas as it consistently plays better when its big man gets going. However, Martin might be even more impactful.

The Jayhawks are 12-1 this season when he scores at least 10 points as his playmaking and shot-creation takes their offense to a different level. Their scoring average leaps from 76.5 points per game to 82.2, and their average offensive efficiency increases from 118.8 to 122.8.

Martin, though, said neither he nor the team are feeling any added pressure.

“We just need to go out there and do what we do,” he told reporters on Sunday. “We have a great team. We’ll be well-prepared and the most aggressive team will win. Just have fun with it, like we’ve been doing, and the rest will take care of itself.”

Kansas will need Martin to do what he does if it’s going to cut down the nets Monday night.

Header image courtesy of Heartland College Sports.



Categories: March Madness

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