Originally posted on Fox Sports Kansas City  |  Last updated 3/24/12
ST. LOUIS Loving her with all your heart does not necessarily mean that she'll love you back. March is funny like that. Some years, she returns Bill Self's calls. Some years, she doesn't. You dial anyway. Consider the curious case of Tyshawn Taylor. In a dozen career NCAA tournament appearances, Kansas' point guard has averaged 7.8 points, shot 40 percent from the floor, made less than 10 percent of his treys (3-for-32, .094), hit on 63 percent of his free throws and committed almost as many turnovers (39) as assists (44). A career 38 percent shooter from beyond the arc, he's 0-for-12 from long distance during this year's Big Dance. As the stadiums get bigger, his game has gotten curiously smaller. "I don't know what it is, man," offered Taylor, who'll lead the 31-6 Jayhawks against top-seeded North Carolina Sunday in the NCAA's Midwest regional final. "I don't know what it is. I'm going to keep shooting it confidently. I feel like that they're good when they leave my hand, and so I'm going to keep shooting it." The Hoboken, N.J. native was in a reflective mood Saturday. That happens in Bracketville, sometimes, when you're a senior. You can smell the end. You don't want it to end. Desperation sets in. The memories rush back. So do the regrets. And over the past four years, Taylor has experienced more than his share of both. As a sophomore, he was part of a brawl with a bunch of Kansas football players, injuring his finger in the process. He was suspended for violating team rules as a junior and again as a senior. In January, he lashed out at his critics via his Twitter account, informing the haters that "if you can go out there and lace 'em up ... I'll accept the constructive criticism ... but since y'all cant well ... yeah." Also, he's won four straight Big 12 titles and played in two Elite Eights. Since 2008, his teams have averaged 31.5 victories a season. When asked this past winter to become a scorer, the guy responded by nearly doubling his previous average, from 9.7 points per game to 16.6. Sometimes, you take the good with the bad. "Everybody watched him mature," forward Thomas Robinson said of his friend and teammate, "right in front of your eyes." Still, when it comes to Taylor, the emotions in Lawrence rarely run lukewarm, do they? Although the truth probably lies somewhere in the middle. So, for now, does the legacy. "I think it crosses my mind, from time to time, because I've been one of those players who has been criticized," Taylor said. "A lot of fans love me, they hate me, (that) kind of thing. I think about (it) from time to time, and being in a situation where you've come behind so many great players that people remember and show so much love to. "You want to be one of those guys. And I think that, as far as my work on the court, I think I could possibly be one of those guys. And I think (Sunday's) game is a step in that right direction." To many fans, Taylor sits on the fence now, teetering back and forth; infamy on one side, immortality on the other. A win over the Tar Heels a win over Roy Williams and a berth in the Final Four would push him onto the latter column in one fell swoop. Other than that, man, no pressure. "Offensively, I haven't been playing too well," said Taylor, who missed 12 of 14 shots late Friday night in a victory over North Carolina State, committed five turnovers, and generally drove the Jayhawk faithful bonkers. "And I don't want to put extra pressure on myself, but I just know that I can't play too much worse offensively. "So I'm actually looking forward to playing. I think a win could mean so much to my legacy at Kansas and life in the future." Which Tyshawn will it be, though? The one who missed two of three massive free throws against Missouri in Columbia? Or the one who drained seven of eight from the charity stripe against those same Tigers just a few weeks later? Is he a money player or a reckless riverboat gambler? A legend or a goat? "He tries to make plays, and (in) trying to make them, there's going to be mistakes," teammate Travis Releford said. "He knows he's got to play through them for us to win." They go as he goes, more or less. In the Jayhawks' 31 victories, Taylor's averaged 4.5 assists and 3.2 turnovers. In Kansas' six losses, it's 4.8 assists and 4.5 turnovers. When the senior gives the ball away four times or fewer, the Jayhawks are 25-3. "Freshman or Sophomore Tyshawn would've hung my head, been kind of mad," said Taylor, who also whiffed on three of five free-throw attempts against the Wolfpack. "I'm a senior now. I've been through it so many times that it's just you know, we still can win whether I make that free throw or not. We've just gotta think, 'Next play.' That's what Coach (Bill Self) always says: 'Think next play,' and that's just what I did." The trick now for Taylor now is not thinking about the Final Four, now just one game away, almost close enough to touch. He got into a discussion actually, it turned into an argument on that very topic earlier Saturday with Robinson, during Kansas' team breakfast. The big man reminded Taylor that if you find yourself staring too long and hard at New Orleans in the distance, you might wind up getting blindsided in St. Louis. "I was like, 'Dang, man, if we just get past this,'" Taylor recalled. "And he was like, 'Whoa, whoa, whoa, relax, bro, relax. Take it easy.' "And that's how you've got to think, man. Because I think in the past, we've been in this Elite Eight situation before and we were thinking 'Final Four' before we even got in the Elite Eight game. So we can't do that, man. Carolina is a great team, man. It's a little easier not to look past them because you understand they're a great team." A great team with flaws, though, as Ohio University proved in pushing the Heels to overtime on Friday night. A great team with a freckled freshman playing point guard. A great team that just got scared out of its baby blue wits. By the same token, the law of averages says there's probably no way Carolina star Harrison Barnes shoots as poorly as he did against the Bobcats (3-for-16), nor that the Heels will throw the ball away 24 times again. The Jayhawks don't need to be perfect, but it wouldn't hurt to be close. Two-for-14 from Taylor again means Rock Chalk is heading home. You can follow Sean Keeler on Twitter @seankeeler or email him at seanmkeeler@gmail.com
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