Saturday's KU win over Kansas State wasn't a shock to most sports fans on either end of the rivalry. What was a surprise to most, however, was the wire-to-wire domination shown by the Jayhawks, a team that had struggled to keep control of games against legitimate opponents.
Taylor was especially good, shooting 5-of-6 from the field and 3-of-4 from the line for 13 points. He also agitated Kansas State's Jacob Pullen into a lousy shooting night. When it was over, Pullen got his – 21 points – but he was never a factor.
Selby was 4-of-6 from the field, including 3-of-3 from behind the arc, for 12 points. He committed a couple of knuckleheaded charges, but KU coach Bill Self has been telling him to go to the basket more aggressively. Combine his coach's urgings with the excitement of your first KU-KSU game and some silly freshman mistakes can be expected.
But ever since Selby joined the team, he and Taylor have struggled mightily to get it together.
It started with Selby's debut. It was the kind of opening game little kids shooting in their driveway dream about: 21 points and five boards in 27 minutes, including the game-winning shot against Southern California back in December. It was probably the biggest splash a true freshman has made in his Allen Field House debut since Jacque Vaughn duped us all into thinking he could shoot by hitting a three to beat Bob Knight, Damon Bailey and the Indiana Hoosiers. That was back when beating Indiana meant something, too.
Meanwhile, in that same USC game, junior point guard Tyshawn Taylor couldn't wake up from a nightmarish performance: seven points on two-of-seven shooting from the field and one assist against six turnovers.
Most everyone anticipated that the Jayhawks would undergo some chemistry funkiness with the introduction of a new player, regardless of how talented, into a lineup that was already 9-0, ranked in the top five and beating people by about 78 points a game.
But until last Tuesday's win over Colorado, the two had yet to combine for solid performances. Now they've had two in a row, and that's encouraging.
Selby has struggled to be more consistent, not to mention more aggressive. Most of the time, he seems to be content hovering around the three-point line, ala Brandon Rush circa 2006, rather than use the freakish athleticism his Creator gave him to relentlessly attack the basket.
Going into the USC game, Taylor had seemingly overcome many of the knocks against him from last season. Sure, he'd uncork a bad pass now and again, but he'd shown in word and deed that he'd matured tremendously. His stat line was very, very solid: 10.9 points per game on 57% shooting (including 44% from behind the arc) and an assist-to-turnover ratio of better than 2-to-1.
After Selby arrived, Taylor's numbers dropped in a noticeable way: 6.9 points per game on 38.5% shooting (25% from 19'9") and a ratio of 1.42-to-1. That was prior to the Colorado game.
One could've argued that the two seemed to be making each other worse. In many ways, the numbers would have borne that out.
Selby wasn't consistently aggressive. He wasn't aggressive because he wasn't really engaged in the offense. He wasn't engaged because the ball wasn't in his hands.
So, give him the ball, right?
Take the ball out of Tyshawn Taylor's hands and you're taking away his prime role on this team. He becomes a spectator.
Taylor has played really good defense most of the year – I still contend that his length and quickness make him the leading candidate to be the shutdown defender this team needs – but he's not a consistent enough shooter to justify being on the floor without handling the ball the majority of the time.
I saw this as maybe the biggest hurdle the Kansas Jayhawks had to clear in order to, in coach Bill Self's words, go from a really good team to a great team.
Now, with two solid games by both players in the books, maybe they've cleared it.
March is a month away, and as Kansas fans, many of us don't pay much attention to what happens before that. Kansas has been a top 10 team all season, and deservedly so.
If the Jayhawks are going to make a top 10-type run in the post-season, however, they can't afford to play wondering which Selby or which Taylor they're going to get.
Maybe Taylor becomes Russell Robinson and makes complementing everyone else his goal. Maybe Selby becomes freshman Danny Manning, deferring to his elders while still scoring 14 a game night in and night out. Maybe the solution falls somewhere in between.
My dad used to say, "Once is a mistake, twice is a coincidence, three times is a trend." Two games hardly constitute a body of work. Self would say, "It's nice, but we'll have to see how this plays out over time." True, their good work in the last two games may just be a coincidence.
The Jayhawks travel Lubbock to take on hapless Texas Tech Tuesday night. United Spirit Arena has been less than kind over the years to highly-ranked Jayhawk teams, but I also can't think of a better place for Taylor and Selby to make sure their improvement is a trend, not a coincidence.