Perhaps no one has noticed, but I have yet to write anything lengthy about KU basketball this season. There are a couple reasons for that – which I’ll get into in another post at some point – but the bottom line is I have a different relationship with the team and with college basketball in general this year. In fact, Monday’s game against Baylor was the first game I watched from start-to-finish all season.
Obviously I picked a good night to get back on the Jayhawk crack.
I think I speak for most KU fans in saying that I entered this season with rather modest expectations. I still thought the team would be good. But with reduced numbers, Thomas Robinson playing extended minutes for the first time in his career, and the always enigmatic Tyshawn Taylor serving as the team’s leader, I certainly didn’t expect another 30 win season. And I still don’t although it looks like the win total will be closer to 30 than 20 when the season is over.
Judging from the emails, texts, and Tweets I read last night and this morning, the thrashing of Baylor injected a big dose of confidence into the KU fan base. Expectations are beginning to grow. Possibilities put aside for this season are being reassessed. We are seeing the blossoming of the next great player in the KU pantheon and the maturity of the most maligned player since Eric Chenowith.
When they play defense, this team is very, very good. Robinson’s game is growing every day; he’s noticeably better than he was in November. Taylor will never be the ideal point guard, but he’s playing with a confidence and comfort he’s never had before. You can ride that combo a long way when guys like Travis Reliford, Elijah Johnson, and Jeff Withey are doing just enough to keep defenses honest.
But it’s hard for me to see either Robinson avoiding foul trouble (or just a bad shooting night) or Taylor playing steady enough to get the team through four NCAA games and to New Orleans. It is fun, though, to watch them play and remind myself how lucky I am that rebuilding seasons at KU still mean being in contention for the conference title and a high seed in March.