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An Argument With No Merits??
KANSAS CITY — Michael Beasley or Tyler Hansbrough?
The national debate seems to have settled on those two as the final candidates for college basketball’s player of the year.
In Friday night’s 63-60 loss to Texas A&M in the quarterfinals of the Big 12 tournament, Beasley shot 10-of-21 for 25 points and made the game look effortless one second with a lefty hook or 3-pointer.
The next, he clanged a shot and yelled an expletive as he jogged backward down the court to play defense. To many voters, that is Beasley in a nutshell: so talented it’s as if he’s playing in slow motion, but then reminding you that he’s a rough-around-the-edges freshman.
The bottom line is, Beasley is losing a popularity contest to Hansbrough that has more to do with the pedigree of their colleges, their coaches, even their high school paths, and very little to do with their on-court prowess.
If you break down Hansbrough, he’s seen as the overachieving kid who led Poplar Bluff High School in Missouri to two state championships before settling on the ultimate blue-blood basketball school — North Carolina.
The images of Hansbrough are of wide eyes, constant motion and that scowling, bloody face from last year’s game against Duke, when he was jackhammered by a forearm from Gerald Henderson. He’s a grinder, whose always-revving motor has earned him the nickname Psycho T. No forearm, no amount of blood can deter him.
If you break down Beasley, he’s seen as the kid from Washington, D.C., who went to six high schools, broke a commitment to UNC-Charlotte when his former AAU assistant coach Delonte Hill left UNC-Charlotte for a job on Bob Huggins’ staff at Kansas State.
Beasley is seen as the guy who plays for K-State coach Frank Martin, whom most believe got the job succeeding Huggins because he vowed to make Hill his top assistant. By keeping Hill, it would mean K-State got to keep Beasley.
Undoubtedly, voters have heard the stories about how Beasley, a prankster who loves “SpongeBob SquarePants”, was tossed out of Oak Hill Academy because he got into a contest with North Carolina point guard Ty Lawson to see who could sign their names the most places. Beasley chose the principal’s truck.
And maybe the voters caught Beasley saying during warmups before a game at Nebraska on Feb. 20 that, “I might go for 50 tonight.” Only to score 17 in a 71-64 loss.
College basketball writer Garry Parrish of cbssportsline.com, which awarded its national player of the year to Beasley, said the voting had become a popularity contest in a race in which Beasley’s numbers (26.5 ppg, 12.5 rpg) surpass Kevin Durant’s (25.8 ppg, 11.1 rpg) from last year and Hansbrough’s (23.1 ppg, 10.5 rpg) this year.
“People felt safe voting for Kevin Durant as a freshman last year because he seemed like the All-American kid; really humble, in addition to being a supreme talent,” Parrish said.
By contrast, Parrish said, Beasley’s talent is being overshadowed by peripheral stuff. Undoubtedly, that stuff is six high schools. The switch from UNC-Charlotte to K-State to play for Huggins, who had NCAA issues at Cincinnati. Perceived lack of humility.
College basketball voters feel like they can’t go wrong voting for Hansbrough and North Carolina. He’s the safe pick. The blue chip stock on the Dow Industrial. Beasley and K-State are the high-risk, initial public offering of the company selling private trips into space.
Hansbrough is the most productive player on a North Carolina team that went 30-2 in the ACC. Beasley is the most productive player on a K-State team that has seven freshmen in the rotation and finished third in the Big 12.
In a year in which character in sports seems to be the dominant story, from Roger Clemens and Spygate to NBA official Tim Donaghy and throwing tennis matches, let’s hope character has not entered the race between Hansbrough and Beasley.
Let’s hope Beasley is judged by his talents on the court and nothing else.