It was the story of two halves for both Kansas and North Carolina in the Midwest Regional Final; both teams were lights-out for the opening 20 minutes while both struggled to regain the same offensive flow after intermission.
The Jayhawks however, a team that hadn't scored more than 68 points in the NCAA Tournament beforehand, found a way to secure the crucial buckets late along with the necessary stops, ultimately beating the Tar Heels 80-67 in perhaps the tournament's signature game to this point.
There were several keys to such success; All-American Thomas Robinson was relentless on the glass, Jeff Withey consistently altered shots and Elijah Johnson hit the crucial 3-pointer late, but perhaps the most important cog for Kansas was senior point guard Tyshawn Taylor. After enduring a miserable 2-14 shooting night and 5-turnover performance against NC State, he bounced back as the true lead guard he has been for Bill Self and this team all season. Taylor, who has been maligned for much of his career as a turnover-prone volume shooter, finished the game with 23 points, 5 assists and 5 steals. While he took a couple of questionable shots, he made up for it with other timely buckets, including a crowd-pleasing breakaway dunk late in the game and a game-clinching, and-one layup. Aside from Kendall Marshall's absence, he was the main reason why Kansas outscored North Carolina 18-8 in transition for the game.
For a team that lacks great depth and elite guard play aside from Taylor, Kansas presents an intriguing matchup in the Final Four. Robinson is tremendous on either block and at the high post and Withey -- who recorded ten blocks Friday night -- is a dominator in the paint. But it's Taylor who can elevate this team to a national title, because he is so dynamic leading the transition attack and terrific out of pick-and-roll, dishing several times to Withey and Robinson against Carolina.
Against Ohio St. in the national semifinal, his play will very likely determine the fate of the Jayhawks. As seen against Syracuse, Buckeyes point guard Aaron Craft is a belligerent on-ball defender, singlehandedly capable of thwarting the entire half-court efficiency of an offense.
With the exception of Taylor's cold 3-point shooting in March -- he hasn't connected on one yet -- his Achilles Heel is still an overzealous need to make difficult passes into traffic and over-dribble, two areas that Craft will surely look to exploit.
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