Smash-Mouth Jayhawks

Zone busters. Spark plugs. Pit bulls. I'm looking for the right words, help me.

The Kansas Jayhawks are rolling as the NCAA tourney looms, and it's hard to do justice to their offensive tenacity and smash-mouth defensive mentality.

After the Jayhawks beat down the Texas Longhorns, making me look good for having called the win and predicting key stats, the whole state of Kansas started jumping up and down. Out in the prairie, ground hogs thought a minor earthquake was hitting the Midwest.

Nope, it was just the ‘Hawks and their fans, celebrating a pay-back smack-down. Everyone told them not to do it, including the Longhorn cheerleaders, but KU went on and defied the Lone Star curse. They messed with Texas, but the dirt didn't stick. If anything, NBA lottery pick LaMarcus Aldridge (4 points, 5 rebounds, no blocks) is looking a little dusty now.

As the week progresses, I'll post some thoughts on KU's first-round match-up with the Bradley Braves. Bradley features a couple of NBA-caliber players, one of them a 7-footer. Needless to say, the services of the Jayhawk big men will be required once again.

For the moment, I'm simply thrilled with the tough, tough, in-your-face intensity I'm seeing from the Jayhawks. This team appears sold on Bill Self's strategy, and as a result has a toughness that Roy Williams KU teams always seemed to lack. This concerted aggression is embodied by PG Russell Robinson, whose stat line in the Oklahoma State game included 7 steals, 7 assists, 7 stitches. No problem. Against the Longhorns, Robinson's stat line resembled a Trophy assembly line: 14 points, 6 rebounds, 6 assists, 3 steals.


Stopping The Mouth: Jayhawks vs. Stinson

In Saturday's game against Iowa State, there was a stat begging to be tracked: Stinson-stops. Was I the only one who cheered when Giles swatted away a Stinson lay-up in the game's closing minutes? Then there was the Chalmers pass-deflection and the Hawkins mugging/tie-up...

Subsequent to the January 28 loss in Ames, Curtis Stinson, a.k.a. The Mouth, cemented his status as the Big 12's poorest loser when he growled at fellow Bronx native Russell Robinson in the handshake line. Something along the lines of "We'll get you next time." "We'll see," replied Robinson. (Proving the time-honored principle that understatement is a very effective form of trash-talk.)

During Iowa State's losing effort Saturday, Stinson talked a big game. His pie-hole became his face's largest feature, so much so that Brandon Rush commented afterwards, "That boy has a big mouth on him." And after the Jayhawks blanked Stinson for the second time, he still thought he had something to say, muttering to Robinson about future duels back in New York.

Does this guy have a clue?

During pick-up games in college, I loved to guard players with Stinson-like attitudes purely for the pleasure of seeing the irritation wash over their faces when their chatter and game failed to coincide. A block, a picked pocket, a deflected pass-these become personal insults to someone with an ego as inflated as The Mouth's.

That's why I think that stats like Stinson-stops should be carefully tabulated for the enjoyment (and irritation) of all involved.