Some numbers that mattered for each player in Monday’s loss to Davidson. More bad than good this time around.
Thomas Robinson: 21 and 18
I just made up a new rule for this piece. If you get 20+ points and 15+ rebounds, you get two key stats. At this point I’m really starting to believe that Robinson is the best player in the country, and that Anthony Davis and the Kentucky frontline holding him to 12 and 11 (note: “holding” him to a double-double) is one of the more impressive defensive performances of the season. Obviously I watch more KU hoops than any other school, but no one has impressed as much as Robinson.
Tyshawn Taylor: 8 days
Taylor had a torn meniscus, played on it nine days ago, had surgery eight days ago, then decided he could play Monday. Let’s just straighten out two things here. First, this means that anything Kansas got from him was a bonus. By most medical logic, he’s out for that game and maybe one or two more. So getting 15 points and seven assists was great. If Elijah Johnson knocks down a couple more threes, we’re looking at a double-double. Solid performance from Taylor. If at this point you’re still upset with the five turnovers, I don’t know what to tell you. You should know what you’re getting from TT by now. Second thing this tells us is that Taylor is an absolute warrior, and has developed into the leader that Self needs him to be. It was pretty clear that Taylor wasn’t at full speed, but Self obviously has no faith in Naadir Tharpe (more on this later). Taylor at 70 percent, like I tweeted pregame, is still the team’s best lead guard. Apparently by a pretty wide margin.
Elijah Johnson: 3-10 3P FG
Johnson’s got a beautiful stroke. He’s got great rhythm as a catch-and-shoot guy, and when he’s off the dribble he’s got a nice, quick release. But for a guy who is as good at shooting as he is, Johnson goes cold an awful lot. I feel like EJ’s one of those irrational confidence shooters. If he hits one, he starts to think he’s going to hit everything, and he usually does. But if he misses a couple, it goes the exact opposite way. He starts to think too much about his shot, tries to correct mid-game, and it completely throws him off. He’s got worlds of talent. He’s just got to get out of his own way.
Travis Releford: 8 points
I like Releford. A lot. He’s pretty obviously the team’s go-to lockdown perimeter defender, and he’s athletic enough that in the break that he’s an offensive weapon. But for me he has to do more. Kansas can’t rely on Robinson and Taylor – and Johnson to a lesser degree – for all of the scoring, and Releford’s the next guy up. He can shoot (granted his shot is ungainly compared to Teahan or Johnson, but the numbers are there to back him up), and he’s able to get to the rack pretty consistently. If this team is going to succeed, it needs either Releford or the next guy on this list to develop into a double-figure scorer.
Jeff Withey: 16 minutes
Watched the game a couple times now, stared at the boxscore for a good long while, and I can’t figure out why Withey didn’t get more minutes. The only thing I can come up with is that Davidson is laden with guards and keeping Withey in the game meant Robinson had to guard the perimeter and when Robinson is in the process of going for 21 and 18, you just can’t risk him getting into foul trouble. That’s fair. But he’s still the best defender on the team, and if you extrapolate his numbers out to a 24-minute game, he’s looking at a 14-point, 6-board day, which is considerably more than Kansas got from Conner Teahan, who played the lion’s share of Withey’s minutes. I think I just unconsciously complimented Withey’s offense. I’m moving on.
Conner Teahan: 2-8 3P FG
If Teahan’s not hitting from outside, he cannot play 26 minutes. Plain and simple. This sounds like the argument people used to make against Brady Morningstar, but I was actually pro-Morningstar for most of his career. Morningstar brought a lot of other things to the table: great court vision, quality defense. He was like the guy who outworks everyone else on the rec center courts, that everyone else inevitably hates because hey, man, we’re just here to have some fun and jack up some shots and you’re standing really close to me. Teahan doesn’t have that. He’s too slow-footed on defense to guard a three, let alone an athletic one or two, and is more of a liability because of that then Robinson-outside-because-of-
Kevin Young: 0-1 FG
“What is this consistency you speak of?” – Kevin Young.
Young didn’t really say that. If you weren’t sure. But he might as well have. After a brilliant performance off the bench against Ohio State in 24 minutes, Young got 10 minutes against Davidson and didn’t do a damn thing with one of them. I believe it was the man who’s blog I’m borrowing who said he hoped Young would be a homeless-man’s Thomas Robinson. I concurred with that assessment. But he brought little energy and no offensive spark to the Jayhawks in his time on the floor Monday. Bad day for him.
Justin Wesley: 0-1 FG
I was never high on Wesley, so seeing him play at an uninspiring level hasn’t really floored me. I’d hoped he’d be a spark off the bench, and his athleticism that he showed off at Late Night the last couple seasons has been reason enough for some excitement, but this is still a guy who averaged one point and one rebound at Lamar University. There had to be a reason for it. I think it’s pretty clear now what it is. For all his limitless athleticism, Wesley isn’t a great basketball player. It’s like the difference between Kobe and LeBron. LeBron is a world-class athlete, maybe the best in the world right now. I honestly believe he could pick up pretty much any sport and be a star at it. He’s that good. Kobe is a basketball player. Not the biggest, strongest or fastest guy on the floor (don’t get me wrong, he’s still a great athlete), but he’s just got more basketball talent than anyone in the game. Wesley is like LeBron, in that he’s a phenomenal athlete. If he signed up to be a wide receiver, Charlie Weis would be able to do some serious damage with him. He’s just not much of a basketball player, unfortunately.
Naadir Tharpe: 3 minutes
Monday was pretty much a worst-case scenario for the Jayhawks. Going down early meant that Tyshawn Taylor wasn’t coming out of that game unless his knee flat-out quit on him. That said, I’m still surprised Tharpe only got three minutes. It’s been evident that Self doesn’t have a whole lot of faith in Tharpe over the last couple games, but you had to expect Taylor to be limited to about 25 minutes max – Self said pregame he didn’t want him going over 30, he wound up playing 33 – which would have meant Tharpe getting at least 10 minutes. Three, though? He never even got a chance to show what he could do. It wasn’t necessarily a bad day for Tharpe, just disappointing.