The road to the Big 12 title goes through Lawrence and the Kansas Jayhawks proved that again on Monday. The last six times a Top 5 team has visited the Phog, it has left with an L, baby!
The sixth and latest to do that was Baylor. I know the Bears came in 17-0, but Kansas was favored and played like it. Bill Self relied on his inside-outside duo of Thomas Robinson and Tyshawn Taylor and they came through big-time.
Robinson carved up the Baylor defense in the first half, setting the tone by finding gaps and seams in that zone. He also did a super job dominating the glass and showing major confidence; that is why he is my midseason pick for Player of the Year. Taylor was brilliant on both ends of the court as he has been so special lately. He was a difference-maker in the come-from-behind victory over Iowa State.
Jeff Withey showed why he is coming on the strong in the middle with scoring, rebounding and blocked shots. His hard work has paid off and he is a factor for the Jayhawks.
It is truly amazing to think about what Robinson means to this team. Last season, he averaged around 14 minutes per contest and was a contributor. He never cried and sulked, instead working on his game as he knew he would get his opportunity to shine. He knew he would become a double-double man this season.
A lot of people did not know how good this Kansas team would be. After all, the Jayhawks lost the Morris twins to the NBA, as well as Tyrel Reed, Brady Morningstar and Josh Selby.
Self and company have beaten the likes of Ohio State and Kansas State already. Kansas sent a message loud and clear against the previously-undefeated Bears.
I was so impressed with the way Kansas got to the rack against Baylor's size. They did a super job attacking the basket. This Jayhawk team also stands out in the way it protects the basketball, limiting turnovers and working hard to get good shots. It is so vital to have good shot selection if you want to get to the winner's circle in college basketball.
This is a Kansas squad that plays as a team. It understands its role, each individual working hard to play a part in the unit's success. There is T for togetherness, E for effort, A for attitude and M for mental toughness, and that spells out TEAM!
For someone to come into Phog Allen Fieldhouse and leave with a win, they must match the intensity, passion and emotion of Kansas. If not, opponents have no chance to get a W. The Jayhawks team feeds off of its fans and clearly get a boost at home. That is why Rock, Chalk, Jayhawk is so good in Lawrence during the Self era. His teams have lost just seven games there.
This was a very good Baylor team which came in at 17-0. Scott Drew has done a superb job over the years, building back a program which was in disarray at one point. The Bears will learn from this game, facing a tough challenge against Missouri this weekend. Baylor must be more cohesive as a team than it showed in Kansas.
The Bears were entitled to a bad night.
This is not Self's most talented Kansas team. The Jayhawks still enjoyed a vintage performance on Monday night.