In playing today's game against Colorado, the Kansas Jayhawk players have an opportunity to turn the page. Like many of the fans, the players themselves are also more than ready to move on from the Big Monday loss that dropped Kansas basketball from a team with buzz to national media goat in a matter of two hours. Yes it's overblown, but it's what happened
Just as Bill Self's reaction and statements a few days removed from the loss give some insight into the mind of the coach, the player reaction a few days removed gives some equally interesting perspective from the players. Tyshawn Taylor was one of the more highly criticized players in the loss and he owned that piece earlier this week.
"It was one of the roughest games for me since I've been here. I've played a lot of bad games in my career here, but I think that was one of the worst. On both ends of the court I wasn't tuned in or focused on guarding my man. I wasn't getting my teammates through the offense. I played really bad so I just need to come back and be better."
The concern here might be that he himself says he wasn't focused. Understandable, lapses in focus can and do happen. But if in the moment one realizes that they aren't focused, then why weren't you? It's easy to say "I wasn't focused", but how have you learned from that so that it doesn't happen on a bigger stage? It's an important question for Tyshawn going forward.
"I think it's just focus. I've got to be more focused and more in tune to the game. I think I was really rattled on Monday, the crowd was into it. It was just one of those games that I felt like I didn't know what to do.
I know all of us played a part in us losing, but I think if I would have played a better game we would've had a better chance. I feel like I need to come back out here and work hard. I owe that to my team."
Taylor is going to be important in terms of whether or not Kansas reaches their full potential as a team. It's good that he understands that significance, but It's still a concern to hear a player basically admit to being overwhelmed, rattled and flat lost in the moment. Manhattan certainly provided a rare glimpse at pressure and hostility, but Missouri will provide the same and there is no bigger pressure cooker than a close game in the NCAA tournament.
It's refreshing to see Taylor own it and he's been a huge lift at times during this season. But as a junior one would hope that consistency in performance and focus wouldn't be such a concern. At some point it has to turn from talking about focus and become a situation where one shows focus. Self mentioned that the '08 team had a moment where he noticed a difference. That moment was a loss. Perhaps Kansas State can be that moment.
I hate to say that a loss makes us better, but I think it can. We watched tape yesterday and we saw so many dumb plays that we all made. We know we have to learn from that experience and just come out and be better. Defensively we have a lot of work to do just because it's all focus. Once we all get focused in we could be a really good defensive team. I think it starts with me as a point guard though. I'm pressuring the ball most of the time, so it starts with me. If I can be more intense defensively, I think we'll be good."
To his credit, at least Tyshawn Taylor has matured enough to say all the right things and hold himself accountable.
I just need to make sure I'm focused in on my man and helping my team with help defense. I know I can do it. I'm capable of being a great defender and I definitely will try to do that."
And what about the Morris twins and the growing concern over attitude? Marcus, like Taylor, seems to own it, understand it and now it's a matter of realizing it in the moment.
"People have opinions, people can have their opinions. Sometimes they like us and sometimes they don't. It's our fault, it is definitely our fault. I see how people can get that perception. We show a lot of emotions in the games but that's just how we are as players. The only way we feel like we can come off the court is by getting fouls, so it's frustrating at times and sometimes we show emotions. That's just a sign of immaturity. We can't do that kind of stuff because it hurts the team and we can't act that way."
It's getting those early fouls and drawing the ire of the officials that seems to be one of the earliest indicators of a Kansas team that could be in trouble. It's not a given but when the twins are limited it has often been an indicator that the offense can become a concern. Keeping a positive attitude and playing aggressive defense without being drawn into a chippy contest is where the Morris twins can reach a new level.
"We just try to play detailed defense. We want to try and focus on scouting reports and obviously trying to not foul. It's important to keep a good attitude at all times because everybody can see that attitude, especially the referees. You don't want to get on their bad side because once you do, you aren't going to get the majority of the calls."