Even without Pullen, Wildcats surging
Kansas fans are familiar with the concept of balance making a team difficult to defend.
As well they should be. The 2008 national championship squad was renowned for their balance, their lack of one star which shined brighter than the rest. Everyone on the floor was capable of being that guy at a given moment.
Heading into this season, the most pressing question to be answered by the Kansas State Wildcats was one of balance. More specifically, how would they respond to the loss of Jacob Pullen - the guard who had been so instrumental to their success during his four seasons on campus in Manhattan, Kan.?
Twelve games in, and the Wildcats are the owners of an 11-1 record, a No. 23 ranking nationally and - surprise - a more balanced team.
"I think that they are probably more balanced now without Jacob," said Head Coach Bill Self on Tuesday, during his weekly press conference. "But I watched Jacob in person give us 38 (points) and I thought they were pretty good the tight. So from my standpoint, I'm glad he's graduated and gone."
Defense and rebounding have become hallmarks of Kansas State under Martin, but one of the unexpected surprises thus far in the 2011-2012 season has been freshman Thomas Gipson.
The 6-foot-7, 275-pound bruiser is currently averaging 22.9 minutes, 10.4 points and 7.1 rebounds per game.
He's effective, Self said, because of his ability to create space and his southpaw shooting hand.
"You look at him from a production standpoint compared to some of the McDonald's All-Americans recruited to our league, and he's getting more done than a lot of guys on a really balanced team," he said. "So I think a lot of him."
Robinson living up to the hype
Kansas junior Thomas Robinson entered the season with sky-high expectations, and thus far he's been not just meeting them - but exceeding them. He's currently averaging 17.7 points and 12.2 rebounds nationally, and has taken home conference Player of the Week honors three times during the young season.
And he's certainly impressed his coach - though Self sees potential for an even larger step forward.
"I think Thomas, statistically, has played about as well as I could have hoped," he said. "I still don't think he impacts the possessions on both ends in a way that he's capable of doing. But I think he's getting better. I think since Christmas he's had a good couple of weeks, I really do."
Aggressive play the key for Taylor
It's no great secret that Tyshawn Taylor has been something of a…divisive…figure among the Kansas fan base to date.
The enigmatic but extremely talented senior point guard has displayed a disturbing penchant for turnovers as often as he has one for making specular plays. Self agreed that he's a bit of a lightning rod with his play.
"He can be frustrating, because he can make plays you can't coach," he said, smiling. "And then he can make plays that you wonder if he's ever been coached. But that's him. I know I'm glad we got him. I think he's really, really talented and I think he's getting better. I think he's made a conscious effort to tighten his game up in a lot of ways."
The key, Self noted, was that he remain aggressive. Taylor is going to commit turnovers, but as long as he's pushing the tempo and getting into the lane, good things happen more often than not.
"If he's being aggressive, I think his mistakes are very limited," he said. "When he's not being aggressive and not making a play, I think he can become very careless and take it for granted. The simple plays he can make look difficult, and the difficult plays he can make look real easy."