Kansas fans have been wondering what this would look like all season long.
"Okay, so bear with me for a minute," they say to their friends, deep in the type of serious discussion that is the hallmark of sports fandom. "But what if Tyshawn Taylor, Josh Selby and Elijah Johnson were all on the court – wait for it – at the same time?"
One has to admit, the thought does paint a tantalizing picture. With the blessings of length and freakish athleticism all three share, they would seem to fit Head Coach Bill Self's stated desire to player faster and apply more pressure on both ends of the floor almost perfectly.
Wednesday night, fans got their first extended look at this particular lineup in action, teamed with another outstanding athlete, sophomore Travis Releford, and center Jeff Withey in the post. And they proved to be more than just simply fast.
They were a blur.
"I don't know if that's our best or most athletic team, but you could make a strong case that it is," Self said, following his team's 99-52 home victory over the University of Missouri–Kansas City. "My best teams that I've ever had, I played three little guards, so that doesn't bother me at all as long as one of them is tough enough and big enough to defend the three."
To be sure, the game wasn't won exclusively by the trio's play. The Jayhawks jumped out to a 15-0 lead after the opening tip and, as most expected would be the case, were never challenged.
But Johnson, Selby and Taylor provided a glimpse of what this team might be like when they finally blossom into what Self wants them to be – a team that plays up-tempo basketball by kick-starting fast breaks with tough rebounding and pressure defense.
All three posted outstanding stat lines, and all three did a little bit of everything.
Johnson scored 13 points and dished out two assists. Taylor bounced back from a recent run of subpar performances to score 15 points, pull down three rebounds and drop seven dimes. Selby led Kansas in scoring with 16 points, shooting a coolly efficient 4-of-6 from the floor, also doling out seven assists of his own, grabbing four rebounds and recording four steals.
When they needed to drive, they drove; Taylor and Selby finding creases in the UMKC defense at will and either getting up a shot or finding an open man.
When they had an open look from three, they buried it. The trio combined to go 6-of-12 from deep; Johnson pacing the way with three, three-point buckets of his own.
And perhaps most importantly, they took care of the ball. Selby's three turnovers – understandable as he continues to adjust to the speed of the game in his young college career – were the only three the group posted in the contest.
This Kansas team isn't perfect, as Self and his players will be the first to admit. There's a great deal of work to be done between now and March if the Jayhawks are to make a run at the Final Four.
In a way, however, that's the scary part of this. The Johnson, Selby, Taylor rotation in the backcourt is just one look Self can throw at opposing teams. And in Johnson's mind, that versatility will make them all the more dangerous when things finally click on the court for good.
"He knows that if you put me, Tyshawn and Josh on the wings, that will probably be the fastest game you've ever seen," the sophomore from Las Vegas said, a slight smile on his face. "He also knows that if he puts Brady, Tyrel and Josh in the game, then they are just going to make threes all day, and probably won't miss too many."
"We just have a lot of different combinations – a lot that people have even seen yet – that I think he is holding off with," he continued. "Coach is doing what he does. He knows what he's doing."