LAWRENCE — A roster rich in talent has gotten the Kansas Jayhawks to Big 12 play with a 14-1 record and No. 3 national ranking. But as the conference season begins, there appears to be confusion among KU players about how they can play well individually with so much talent around them.
Count KU guard Tyshawn Taylor, who has had an inconsistent start to his sophomore year, among the confused.
"We have so many people, so many players, sometimes I don't know how I fit, like what I'm supposed to do," Taylor said. "Like Sherron (Collins) is a scorer or X (Xavier Henry) is a scorer. Cole (Aldrich) is our post presence. Sherron is our point guard, so sometimes I feel like I get lost in the thing. I think a lot of guys feel like that."
KU coach Bill Self was told of Taylor's comment, and his mood immediately turned sour.
"Well," Self said, "I think Tyshawn talks too much, because I've never heard that before. I'll visit with him about it after practice. If he's unsure of his role, then he doesn't listen very good. It bothers me that any player would say that the day before a game, but I'll address it after practice."
Taylor's last assertion — that he is not alone in feeling lost — should be the most disconcerting thing for Self to hear at the halfway point of the regular season. Of course, for those who watched the Jayhawks lose 76-68 to a depleted Tennessee team on Sunday, maybe it's not all that surprising that KU has become discombobulated.
Against the Volunteers, nobody played well, even Collins, who had 22 points but admitted Tuesday that he tried to do too much at the end of the game. Taylor turned it over four times. Aldrich grabbed 18 rebounds but could only muster 5 shot attempts. Henry took 2 shots in the second half. And Marcus Morris, who appeared to be emerging into a defined role for KU, was just about nonexistent for the second straight game.
"I just felt like I had to do more," Morris said. "I didn't do enough in the game. The last two games where I didn't do anything, it was kind of close. I feel like I'm a part of (the problem)."
The Morris twins have averaged a combined 6 points and 8 rebounds per game in their last two outings. Marcus said he has to remember that doing the little things can feed his offense.
"Definitely, I feel like I haven't been in my groove offensively," Marcus said, "but I gotta do other things to get into it, as far as rebounding and playing defense."
Marcus said that redshirt junior Brady Morningstar, who appears to have his teammates' universal respect, called a meeting with him and Markieff after the Tennessee game.
"We had a long conversation over the phone," Marcus said. "Brady's one of my closest friends on the team. He felt as though he needed to talk to us and get our minds right for conference play."
Despite Taylor's untimely reflection, he appears to have his mind right.
"I just have to do whatever it takes for my team to win," Taylor said.
Now, the Jayhawks realize that winning is not their birthright, that simply having more talent won't be enough night after night.
"We haven't had to go through any battles because everything's been given to us," Taylor said. "They made us No. 1 in the country, and we didn't do anything for it. I think (tonight against Nebraska) is our chance to see how we bounce back from adversity."
Self said he's already seen an improved demeanor from his team.
"Sometimes, I think guys operate better out of fear because it seems to turn everybody up a little bit," Self said. "I thought we were way too casual and relaxed in the game Sunday, and unfortunately for us, it's the opposite on Monday. They were nervous that if we didn't really get after it, it'd be a real long day for everybody. I told our guys, 'Sad to say, but we played a national TV game, and we played harder in practice than we did in the game.' We just can't let it happen again."