St. Louis — Thomas Robinson was tempted to start a food fight with Kansas University basketball teammate/best buddy Tyshawn Taylor during brunch Saturday in a ballroom at the Hyatt Regency at the Arch Hotel.
“We got into an argument, like a full-blown argument, like a serious one,” said Robinson, ready to turn over Taylor’s plate of lasagna and garlic bread after hearing the senior point guard mention how great it’d be to be in next week’s Final Four in New Orleans.
“I’m just scared to overlook anybody now. I’m scared to think about next week, scared to think about Monday. I’ve seen what happens when you do that,” junior forward Robinson added. “I don’t want that to happen anymore. I’m tired of going home crying ... so I’m trying to fix every little mistake that caused us to go home last year.”
Robinson admittedly is a bit “paranoid” as he focuses on taking it one game at a time heading into today’s 4:05 p.m. Elite Eight contest between No. 2 seed KU (30-6) and No. 1 seed North Carolina (32-5) at Edward Jones Dome.
“I’m not comfortable, man. I think that’s my biggest problem with coach (Bill Self),” said Big 12 player of the year Robinson, a lock to be consensus first-team All-American with his jersey No. 0 destined to hang in the rafters of Allen Fieldhouse in five years or so. “Coach is telling me to relax a little bit, but I can’t help it. I want to get the further I can get. The Elite Eight is not good enough for me. I want to get to the Final Four and keep playing. I’m not ready for my career to be over with. I do take it pretty serious, probably more serious than I should. I just want to win.”
So does floor general Taylor, who actually is happy Robinson — whose next loss at KU figures to be his last, with the NBA Draft lottery calling his name — called him out Saturday.
“We were arguing a little bit. I caught myself thinking about the match-ups that could happen if we make it there (Final Four). I caught myself thinking ahead a little bit,” Taylor said.
“He said, ‘Ty you’ve got to relax a little bit.’ We caught ourselves doing that a little bit before. My whole thing is our team is not the same team, our attitudes are different. Still, he had a very valid point. You can’t look too far in the future.”
Robinson said he has been communicating a bit with the NBA’s Morris twins, Marcus and Markieff, who were part of last year’s Elite Eight loss to VCU and a second-round loss to Northern Iowa the year before that.
“That’s pretty much where I’m getting this from now,” Robinson said. “They are talking to me, telling me the mistakes they made, how they overlooked everything. They want for me not to make that mistake. I’ve been watching the past two years how this team handled things, how we went about it. Now that it’s my turn. I don’t want that to be the reason why.
“Tyshawn wasn’t overlooking anybody. He just was saying how good it would be in the Final Four. Don’t get that twisted. It’s impossible to overlook North Carolina anyway.”
Taylor, who reiterated Saturday he’d love for injured UNC point guard Kendall Marshall (broken bone, right wrist) to be able to play today, said he learned a lot from last year’s Elite Eight loss to VCU.
“In that game we were all looking so much to get to the Final Four because I think we all felt like if we beat VCU, we’re going to win this thing,” Taylor said. “I think that’s where our whole focus was instead of just thinking, ‘We can beat VCU. These are guys who’ve beaten everybody the whole tournament.’ We understand that these guys were going to come and play and be ready to beat us.’ We were looking past them so much that we ended up losing. I think it’s a little bit different now because, first, we’re probably the underdog in this game, and No. 2, it’s Carolina, you’re not going to look past Carolina. You can’t. They’re great. Being in this situation is a little bit easier because we’re playing against a team that’s expected to beat us, so its easier not to look past like we did in the past.”
Big men Robinson and Jeff Withey today face big tests in twin towers Tyler Zeller and John Henson.
Zeller, a 7-foot, 250-pound senior, averages 16.5 points and 9.7 rebounds per game; Henson, a 6-11 junior, averages 13.8 points and 10.1 boards.
“I’m actually watching tapes of the Kentucky game. I think that will help me for this game,” said Robinson, who had 11 points and 12 rebounds in KU’s 75-65 loss to the Wildcats on Nov. 15 in New York. The 6-10 Anthony Davis had 14 points and six boards that game.
“John Henson and Anthony Davis both affect the game on the defensive end by altering shots and blocking shots. I can look and see what I did and didn’t do against Anthony Davis,” Robinson added.
Carolina’s leading scorer is 6-8 sophomore Harrison Barnes, who averages 17.2 points per game. Reggie Bullock, a 6-7 sophomore, contributes 8.9 points and 5.0 boards. He had 17 points (Zeller had 20 and Henson 14) in UNC’s 73-65 victory over Ohio on Friday in the Sweet 16.
“We’re excited about the opportunity to play against a terrific team and program that we obviously respect a tremendous amount, a coach that obviously has played a huge role in the history of Kansas basketball, and really looking forward to the challenge and having an opportunity to play for what every coach and every player dreams of in the beginning of the season, the opportunity to go to the Final Four,” Self said.
As far as preparing for UNC, with or without Marshall ...
“He’s a terrific guard,” Self said. “And we could do some things that are a little bit different than if he was 100 percent healthy, there’s no question about that, or attempt to do some things. But the bottom line is, we are who we are. And in our packages we could do a few things differently. Do you trap ball screens? How do you guard certain things? Where do you pick up? How do you take him out of certain sets? Do you back off? Do you play passing lanes? Do you overplay right (Marshall is a lefty)? I mean, there’s a lot of things that you could certainly do. But we’re going to prepare basically that we’re going to try to guard North Carolina and regardless who was out there at the point.”