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November 7, 2011
Talking About Tyshawn
Quantifying News Coverage

by Corey Schmidt


When Tyshawn Taylor joined Kansas in 2008 as a solid yet unheralded recruit, he was but one player expected to compete for playing time on a team that had a lot of it available. After capturing an NCAA Championship the year before, Kansas had lost most of its top contributors to graduation or the NBA, leaving behind a crop of talented but unproven players. In any other year, Taylor might have been a bit player for the Jayhawks--not unlike Sherron Collins was during his first two years in Lawrence--but on a young team, Taylor was starting by his second game. And by the time Collins and Cole Aldrich were establishing themselves as the latest KU stars, folks were looking to Taylor to fulfill the role of reliable third scorer and future phenom. Today, the consensus opinion on Taylor is not as positive.

Though Taylor's season statistics have been fairly steady in each of his three years as a Jayhawk, the overall sentiment regarding the player has fluctuated greatly in every season. To see how this has changed over time, we conducted a word analysis using articles that have been written about the senior guard since 2008. With the help of Google, we tracked down all of the features, columns, and recaps containing Taylor's name from three sources: the Daily Kansan, Topeka Capital Journal, and Rock Chalk Talk. We also captured a sample of articles from the archives of the Lawrence Journal-World and national outlets such as CBSSports.com and ESPN.com. From here, any words used to describe Taylor were recorded and counted.

The following graphic reports the results of this exercise. Each pie chart represents one of Taylor's seasons at Kansas. The blue region depicts the percentage of positive words used to describe Taylor, while the red region shows the same for negative words. Positive words include mature, talented, reliable, and dynamite. Negative descriptors include inconsistent, much-maligned, immature, and unfocused.

By most measures, Taylor had a strong freshman campaign. He experienced the highs and lows that usually accompany one's first Division I season, but because he was a newcomer, most observers chose to ignore the mistakes and instead focus on his potential. The word most often used to describe Taylor in 2008-09 was "impressive."

Though the New Jersey native led the USA team to an Under-19 World Championship title between his freshman and sophomore seasons, his name was more often in the news that summer because of his involvement in a fight between Kansas basketball players and football players. This incident marred his name off the court and led to an increase in the amount of negative words used to describe the then-sophomore. This trend continued into the season when he struggled with his play on the court. These events can help explain the flip in the perception of Taylor from Year 1 to Year 2.

Taylor experienced a bit of a revival during his junior season. While the word analysis revealed that 67% of the words used to describe him were negative, such a mark was about 11 percentage points better than the prior year. Part of this ascension was likely due to the improvement he showed on the court. He upped his shooting percentages and assist rate, and his Offensive Rating remained steady despite an uptick in usage. However, his junior season also featured a two-game suspension in late February. While he bounced back in time to have a strong Big 12 Tournament, the suspension provided the media with yet another opportunity to discuss Taylor's wandering focus and immaturity. It's no surprise, then, that the word most often used in relation to Taylor during 2010-11 was "frustrating."

Over the course of his time in Lawrence, Tyshawn Taylor has evolved from a promising freshman into a frustrating junior. His career has been one of ups and downs both on and off the court. It is with this polarizing reputation that he enters his fourth and final year as a Jayhawk. The senior guard will now be the most seasoned player on a young and inexperienced team. If Taylor's play and behavior inspires analysts to talk about him as a mature and focused leader in 2011-12, the story of his career as a Jayhawk may indeed conclude with a positive twist.

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