I'm not sure which Seth Davis Seth Davis likes more - the Seth Davis on TV or the Seth Davis smiling handsomely back at Seth Davis in the mirror each day. Old white teeth and eyebrows has some good things to say about the 'Hawks though, so I should probably take it easy on him.
One should be wary about drawing too many conclusions from a 30-point blowout, but the Jayhawks demonstrated once again they may have the best "A" game in the country. When they are at their best -- as they were on Thursday night -- there is nobody better.
There are two main reasons KU has made significant strides over the last few weeks. The first is the steady improvement of 6-1 sophomore guard Mario Chalmers. Against the Cowboys, Chalmers was a dervish at both ends of the floor, dishing out six assists to just one turnover and getting six of the team's 17 steals. He had been on a torrid scoring pace coming into the game (18.8 ppg in his last four), and though he scored just seven points against Oklahoma State, he masterfully controlled the game. In the past, Chalmers hasn't always demonstrated the best feel for the game and tended to get frustrated easily, but he seems to have settled into a confident state of mind.
The other player whose improvement is making a difference is Sasha Kaun, who had his best game of the season (maybe his best game ever) with a 16-point, five-rebound performance. In the coaches' locker room after the game, KU assistant Tim Jankovich said Kaun had looked terrific in practice before sustaining a knee injury that forced him to miss the first five games. Perhaps Kaun is returning to that form.
This is promising because Kaun is a much better post defender than freshman Darrell Arthur. Kaun's improvement also allows Bill Self to bring Arthur off the bench instead of starting him and using him as a first option. Arthur and fellow freshman Sherron Collins give this team a really nice lift coming off the bench. When Arthur was starting, and leading this team in scoring early in the season, I didn't think it was a good sign because it meant the veterans weren't producing the way they should.
Here's something else to keep an eye. The Jayhawks don't use a lot of full-court pressing because Self has always believed it makes his teams less efficient in their half-court man-to-man. But Self put the press on for most of the game because he knew Oklahoma State only had seven players and might get worn out. The press worked better than he could have ever imagined, lifting the Jayhawks to an 18-0 advantage in fast-break points and a 23-8 edge in points off turnovers.
This is significant because Kansas is still a team that has a destructive tendency to play up (or down) to its competition -- you know, the kind of tendency that might lead a team to get upset in the first round of the NCAA tournament. As Self sat in the coaches' locker room shoving huge handfuls of popcorn into his mouth, I told him I thought his players thrived on that attacking defense, and it might help them get into a more competitive mindset if he deployed it more often. He agreed with my analysis. I'm always offering helpful tips like that.
I wish he said "as Self sat in the coaches' locker room watching a reflection of himself in my teeth," but again, I am disappointed.