Musings from Press Row: Cal Edition

A few thoughts and notes from the Jayhawks' tempestuous mid-week victory over the Golden Bears of California, in which we discuss the similarities between Thomas Robinson and Darnell Jackson, the recent struggles of Tyshawn Taylor and whether or not anyone out there thinks Josh Selby will still be a sixth man moving forward.

* Okay, so full disclosure. Musings for this one didn't come from press row in Berkeley, Calif. They come from San Antonio, Texas, where I watched the game with my in-laws last night. But they've got a really big TV, so that's almost as good as being there, right?

Right.

* I think I've got a little bit of a different take on last night's game than most, as it pertains to the emotions on the court and the way they were handled by the Jayhawks.

I've seen so many references already to how poorly the team dealt with that particular flavor of adversity – from Coach Self, from the media, from fans, etc. While I think that was true early, I also think it was incredibly telling how thoroughly they put the clamps down after the dust-up at the 12 minute mark.

Stuff like this happens in sports all the time, brief dust-ups in which nobody is injured by tempers flare out of control. And frequently the victor in those contests is decided by which team handles themselves better after things come to a head.

That was Kansas. The Jayhawks are the more talented team. Everyone could see it, plain as day, and the only thing really keeping Cal in the game was psychological warfare. Jorge Gutierrez might be the most effective trash talker I've seen all year. The guy was living inside the heads of several Kansas players.

But when push came to shove, the Jayhawks pinched out the fuse before the powder keg could really explode, and pulled away for a decisive victory.

So no, they didn't handle themselves early, but I felt like a light bulb may have gone on at about the 10-minute mark of the second half. It's like they realized they were better than Cal; all they had to do was keep cool and play like it.

* I loved Thomas Robinson's fire. Absolutely loved it. I know, I know. Most fans seem to want him to stop talking so much trash, cut down on the gesticulating after big dunks, etc.

But I think that's part of what makes Thomas who he is right now. The dude is an intimidating physical presence, an explosive athlete capable of changing games, and part of that is his attitude.

Beyond that, this team needs an enforcing presence inside like Darnell Jackson was for the 2007-2008 championship team. D-Jack never hesitated to – cleanly – put someone on their butts and let them know it was going to be a long day in the paint for them. Right now, the Twins seem to play more "angry" than outright tough.

* Tyshawn Taylor's regression in the past two games is really disturbing, mostly because it brings back flashbacks of a sophomore Taylor struggling to find his niche alongside a dominant scorer in Sherron Collins.

It could be coincidence that the junior point guard has turned in his two worst performances of the season in freshman star Josh Selby's first two games, but let's be real. It's not. Before Selby's arrival, Taylor was dishing out six assists and turning it over less than twice a game. In the past two he has turned it over a staggering 11 times, and Wednesday he scored just two points.

If the Jayhawks are ever to reach their full effectiveness, Taylor has to learn to play with Selby - and soon. As good as he is, Selby cannot shoulder the load himself in the backcourt if Kansas is to make a run at the title. And Tyrel Reed can't be counted on to bail Taylor out with 18 points a game as he did Wednesday night.

There's a long way to go, and odds are it will click. Taylor is a prolific talent in his own right, he just has to get things squared away mentally. Isolated practices during winter break may be just what the doctor ordered.

* Jorge Gutierrez should have been ejected for the punch he threw at Thomas Robinson. No idea how that went unnoticed, or on what the decision to allow him to remain in the game was based. But man alive, that seemed clear as day.

* It's just two games, but the way he's playing right now it's not a stretch to say Josh Selby is the best player on the team. Not only did he shoot lights out again last night, but the ball was in his hands late in the game, which is extremely telling of Self's confidence level in him.

When almost everyone else, even Brady Morningstar, got caught up in the emotion last night, Selby and Tyrel Reed were rocks. They didn't waver, they just played ball.

His maturity level on the court is absolutely astonishing right now, and it's going to be fun to see how he grows with additional practice and PT.

Does anyone think he won't start next week?


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