Kansas coach Bill Self said he didn't recognize the team that suited up Monday night and suffered an 84-68 humiliation from in-state rival Kansas State. Sure, he didn't recognize the final result, but there were three factors in the loss that should have felt pretty familiar: The Morris twins' rough night with the referees, KU's lack of a floor general when Tyshawn Taylor struggled and overall poor defensive play.
None of those issues were new, but they hadn't all reared their ugly heads on the same night. Throw in a revved-up Bramlage Coliseum and a desperate K-State team that played its best game of the season, and what the Jayhawks got was a reminder that they haven't accomplished anything yet — even if they were voted No. 1 in both polls just hours before the loss.
The good news is that it was ja regular-season game in February, and a team that lost two lottery picks and Sherron Collins was defeated for just the second time this season. The bad news is that those three issues don't appear to be going anywhere. But there's a way KU can turn these negatives into positives before March arrives.
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The Morris twins are two of the better big men in college basketball, but they certainly get no special treatment from referees. Game officials have no reason to give Marcus and Markieff the benefit of the doubt, not after Marcus was ejected from the California game for throwing an elbow above the shoulders and Markieff against K-State picked up his second intentional foul in his last three games for another elbow above the shoulders.
The twins would likely make the argument that they're being picked on, but they'll have to be extra careful not to pick up a reputation for being dirty. This is even more of an issue now that Thomas Robinson is not there to spell them as he recovers from surgery to repair a slightly torn meniscus in his right knee. Robinson is expected to miss two weeks.
For two guys who are known for their sleepy tendencies, and who can come off as amiable as anybody on the team when they are relaxed, it is shocking that they continue to make these mistakes in the heat of battle. Self said last week that he felt the twins were done losing their composure, but it will be up to them to prove it.
Taylor an engima
A season after openly questioning what it was, Kansas guard Tyshawn Taylor knows his role now. He is supposed to play the point, put his teammates in a position to score and be the Jayhawks' best perimeter defender. That is asking a lot of any player, and maybe it's asking too much of Taylor.
Oddly enough, Taylor's best game may have come in the loss to Texas, when he had six assists and no turnovers. Taylor also had 10 points and seven assists (with four turnovers) in KU's 87-79 win over now-No. 12 Arizona in November. But for the most part, his best offensive games have come against lesser competition.
Defensively, his best efforts came against Baylor's LaceDarius Dunn (13 points) and Iowa State's Diante Garrett (12 points) on Saturday in Lawrence. But Taylor was abused on Monday by Jacob Pullen, which made it pretty easy to forget what Taylor did two days prior against Garrett.
The bottom line for KU fans irritated with Taylor is that Self has started him for three years for a reason, and he's going to be an integral part of any success the Jayhawks have down the stretch. Taylor's confidence is fragile and can be shaken early in games. He has to avoid the snowball effect and think "next play." It could also help him to have freshman guard Josh Selby back at full strength to give the Jayhawks another playmaker on the perimeter.
After Monday night, maybe it's just time to say the Jayhawks are an average defensive team and accept it. Too often this season, opposing teams' guards have penetrated at will against KU. For a while, the only thing the Jayhawks excelled at was defending the three, and that is no longer the case.
This is a different kind of team for Self, who will never give up on playing great man-to-man defense. But this team is not going to play defense like the 2008 team. There is no 6-foot-6 Brandon Rush to guard a small forward, no Russell Robinson to pressure the ball and no Mario Chalmers to police the passing lanes. There is no Sasha Kaun or Cole Aldrich coming off the bench to bang down low.
But this team can play half-court offense better than anybody. When the ball is moving, the Jayhawks can practically score at will. A lot of teams wish they could say that.
Without even trying to accomplish it on the recruiting trail, Self has built a team that can outscore people but hasn't shown the ability to string together defensive stops. Self won in 2008 with arguably his best defensive team, and here's an opportunity for him to win with arguably his best offensive team.
Every team has its own personality, and this is Kansas in 2010-11. It doesn't have to be a bad thing.