In the wake of his team's Jan. 16 blowout victory over Baylor, Kansas head coach Bill Self remarked that he's only had one other player during his time on Naismith Drive capable of getting the ball into the lane with the effectiveness of Tyshawn Taylor.
Jayhawks fans know the identity of that player, of course.
As a sophomore in 2008, Sherron Collins was an integral component of the team that would go on to win the national championship. In the years that followed, he grew into the public face - the very identity - of Jayhawks basketball. Known for his toughness and attitude as well as his wizardry with a basketball in his hands, the Chicago native holds a special place in the hearts of many who back the Crimson and Blue.
His signature was his ability to get the ball into the paint against anyone, finishing with acrobatic layups or creating opportunities for his teammates.
Armed with that understanding, consider this follow-up statement from Self:
"Tyshawn does it better than Sherron, as far as getting the ball inside. He's so fast."
While that statement may have raised raised more than a few incredulous eyebrows initially, lately it has become awfully tough to argue.
Beginning with the Jan. 11 matchup with Texas Tech, in the past four games Taylor has played as well as any guard in the country - a statement made less hyperbolic by the agreement and infinite wisdom of ESPN college basketball analyst Jay Bilas.
During that stretch, he has averaged 23.3 points per game, shot 53.2-percent from the floor - including 47.8-percent from beyond the arc - and dished out 5.25 assists per game.
Self's comment comparing Collins and Taylor got us to thinking: How does senior Tyshawn stack up to senior Sherron thus far? Obviously there's a lot of basketball left to be played in the 2011-2012 season and things can still tilt significantly one way or the other, but just for grins...what does that comparison look like? After all, as a senior in 2010, Collins was named an All-American by several publications and organizations - including a second-team selection by the Associated Press - and a first-team All-Big 12 selection.
The answer may come as something of a surprise, particularly those not paying close attention to just how rapidly Taylor's game has progressed. In most per-game statistical categories, the Hoboken, N.J. native is currently coming out on top.
The two play almost identical minutes per game - 32.9 for Collins and 32.3 for Taylor. Taylor leads in points per game (16.5 to 15.5), points per 40 minutes (20.5 to 18.8), field-goal percentage (46.6 to 42.6), three-point percentage (45.3-percent to 37-percent) and assists per game.
Taylor also gets to the free-throw line at a much higher rate, having already attempted 117 to date. Collins attempted 138 his entire senior season, though he shot a much higher percentage than Taylor is currently (85.5-percent to 69.2-percent).
The one area in which Collins holds a significant edge thus far is turnovers. Collins turned it over 85 times in all of 2010, while Taylor has already turned it over 73 times - a 3.8 topg average.
Obviously, this comparison isn't really good for anything but debate and entertainment value. As a senior, Collins played with significantly more raw talent and depth at his disposal than Taylor has right now. What would his numbers be in the same situation?
Additionally, there's a ton of basketball left to be played - 12 games in the regular season alone. Can Taylor keep up his current high level of play?
Collins is one of the most decorated Jayhawks in the Bill Self Era; one of his most successful players, individually and organizationally. If Taylor can keep this ball rolling - and, for the record, four games in a row might legitimately be labeled a trend - will he be in line for the same honors and awards?
It's probably time to start thinking so. Add Taylor to - according to most analysts - the leading candidate for National Player of the Year in Thomas Robinson, an emerging Jeff Withey and a defense that is - according to the statistical genius of Ken Pomeroy - ranked third in the country, and to paraphrase an old proverb...
The Jayhawks are cooking with something strongly resembling petroleum.