* Talking noise to Marcus Morris is not a good idea.
I realize there's something to be said for the underdog coming in with a chip on his shoulder, but this just seems like a horrible idea, akin to poking a bear with a stick. I saw it happen against Valpo, and Morris responded by scoring 22 points on 10-of-12 shooting, grabbing 11 boards and dishing out four assists.
It happened again last night, too. With the Jayhawks coming out of the gates slowly, Texas A&M – Corpus Christi's posts beat the Kansas bigs to rebounds time and time again in the first five minutes of play.
Then they started yapping at Morris, and...yeah. I just sat there and shook my head because the outcome from that point on was totally predictable. He completed a tough bucket for an "And-1" and immediately got in the face of Islanders' forward Justin Reynolds. One of the officials came over and said something to Morris at the media timeout, but the damage had been done.
When play resumed, the junior power forward threw down a thunderous dunk off an inbounds pass, and this time he decided to let aTm – CC's Demond Watt know all about it.
His stat line wasn't typically Morris-y, finishing with 12 points on 5-of-10 shooting and pulling in just five rebounds, but he didn't need to be spectacular last night. He still scored when he wanted to with his usual array of moves, though others took their turn in the spotlight during the 82-41 blowout victory.
The lesson, kids, is this. Marcus Morris is an All-American candidate and a future professional for a reason. He's good. Really good. And beyond that he's matured immeasurably. While the Morris of two years ago may have retaliated more heatedly, the junior version has basically decided to responded by showing the opposition what's what.
It's probably not a good thing to provoke the guy unnecessarily. Just a friendly word of advice.
* Speaking of inbounds plays, is Bill Self the best coach in the business at this aspect of the game or what?
You hear it all the time from fans of virtually every school in the country, especially with the shot clock winding down.
Coming out of a timeout with the ball underneath the basket, their team attempts a set play only to kick the ball out to the perimeter where a guard is left no choice but to hoist an all-advised three as the buzzer sounds for a shot clock violation. Faces sink in to hands at the stadium and voices groan in unison "That's what we came up with out of a timeout?"
But rarely does on hear it from Kansas fans, and that's because Bill Self is an artist in this regard. They're not complicated, they don't feature a ton of misdirection, but they're well executed and almost always effective – typically ending in a lob, a dunk, or if the situation calls for it, an open three-pointer.
The aforementioned play by Marcus Morris was a great example. With Travis Releford, Marcus and Markieff Morris stacked along one side of the lane – and Tyshawn Taylor underneath the basket with the ball – Releford jets out to the wing, drawing an Islanders defender with him.
That leaves the Morrii in the lane, Marcus behind Markieff. Marcus makes for Taylor, rubbing as close to his brother as possible, and all Markieff does is stick out his butt a little bit. No elaborate or obvious screen, but rather just a bump with his butt on Marcus' defender. That bit of breathing room is all he needs, as Taylor flips him the ball, Marcus takes one power dribble to the hoop and throws it down with authority.
* Tyshawn's improvement is truly remarkable.Yeah, yeah. KU hasn't really played anyone of consequence. I get it. Even accounting for degree of difficulty, however, the improvement of Kansas' junior point guard has been something to behold through these first four games.
Taylor's freshman year in 2008 was full of inconsistencies, as one might expect, but also full of promise. He was long and athletic, and in him Kansas fans envisioned some sort of marriage between Mario Chalmers and Russell Westbrook. Nothing like out of control expectations, right?
Last season was difficult for a number of well-documented reasons. His averages dropped almost across the board, and he actually lost his starting spot alongside Sherron Collins for a few games, as he struggled to find his role.
At times, Taylor just looked lost, and in hindsight it's understandable. Those teams had become so used to Sherron doing so much of the heavy lifting that when he began to falter ever so slightly under the pressure, his backcourt mates weren't exactly sure how to pick him up. Xavier Henry tried, but he was another inconsistent – albeit hyper-talented – freshman. Taylor tried, and succeeded on occasion, but it just wasn't a role he was programmed for yet.
Through four games in 2010, the junior from Jersey looks and sounds like an entirely different player. Long known for the collective groan he was able to produce among Kansas fans for his decision making, Taylor has been virtually flawless to date.
Take last night's game. Taylor didn't score a bunch, just seven points, but he didn't take a single bad shot, going 3-for-5 from the floor. He also dished out 9 assists to just 2 turnovers, played outstanding defense and ran the show to perfection.
If he can keep this up, the Jayhawks are going to be really, really tough to beat. Taylor's combination of athleticism and the length afforded by a 6-foot-3 frame are unique to the point guard position at the college level, and Self believes he has the potential to be one of the best defenders he's ever coached.
Much like the 2007-2008 championship squad, this team is so loaded with talent that no one player needs to be the go-to guy. Multiple players are capable of being that guy on any given night – including Taylor – but the load is shared by many.
For a kid who has been through as much adversity as he has in the past couple of years, it's nice to see him smiling and carefree in the post game pressers. He looks like someone who has found his place.
* The players might not think about "the streak" much, but the fans sure do. And they should.
Phog.net's own Jim Williamson wrote a great column about this yesterday, and he was right – last night's victory was a moment to savor.
63 in a row at Allen Field House. That is mind-boggling. Just one player on the current Kansas team knows what it's like to experience a loss in the old barn, and that's eighth-year senior Brady Morningstar.
There have been so many great victories in that stretch, but I think my personal favorite was last year's win over Kansas State. The Wildcats have been really, really bad for the most part during the past 20 years, and even though I'm loathe to actually cheer for them a part of me is capable of admitting that it's fun having the rivalry actually mean something again.
The March 3rd match-up was a meeting of Top 5 teams (Kansas was #2, Kansas State was #5), and a chance for revenge on the part of the Wildcats after the Jayhawks spoiled their part at Bramlage Mausoleum a little more than a month earlier.
Kansas rocked and rolled as it so often does at AFH, and in a season when the insanely dominant win-loss record never really seemed to accurately reflect what we saw on the court, for at least one game everything seemed to click.