One Man Band?

Kansas takes its 20-0 record and number two ranking to Manhattan on Wednesday to take on in-state rival Kansas State. takes a look at KU's game plan to try and stop one of the best players in the country, Wildcat freshman stud Michael Beasley.

His name nearly spells it out for you – Beasley – sounds pretty close to Beastly. Make no mistake about it K-State’s Michael Beasley is an absolute Beast!  

The matchups don’t get any tougher than Kansas State freshman Michael Beasley. The reigning Big 12 player of the week is putting up numbers that rival last year’s freshman phenom, Kevin Durant. Beasley is merely averaging 25-plus and nearly 13 rebounds a game in his first and likely only, year of collegiate ball.

“I thought you would never see a freshman dominate college basketball as (Kevin) Durant did as the unanimous National Player of the Year as a freshman,” said KU head coach Bill Self. “Michael has that same opportunity in front of him, if he finishes the season strong, to be the National Player of the Year also."

Any comparisons drawn to former Texas Longhorn Kevin Durant tend to send shivers up any KU fan’s spine. After all, Durant enjoyed a statistical field day in two matchups against the Jayhawks last season but Kansas got both wins. I would think that Self would again be willing to trade a 30-point night from Beasley for a “W” at Bramlage Coliseum.

It was no surprise that heading into Wednesday’s Big 12 battle, the 6-10 Beasley was the hot topic during two media sessions on Monday. Self struggled to find a comparable player to Beasley, but he had no problem finding superlatives to describe Michael’s play.  

“He’s just got that rare blend of strength, and length and athletic ability but he’s got such soft hands. He’s got as good hands as anyone in the country hands down. I don’t know who he reminds me of. He may be the first,” Self told reporters.

There’s not a single person covering this game who doesn’t believe that head coach Frank Martin’s smooth, lefty big man will be a stern test for a stout Kansas defense that hasn’t allowed any player to score over 30 this season (Chase Budinger had 27 for Arizona), but then again KU hasn’t really faced a player with the skills of Beasley.

“He's strong, he's long and he's got great balance,” noted Self. “But some guys just know how to score. Some guys know how to use their bodies better than others, initiating contact and getting to the free throw line. He's really good with either hand around the basket. He's a terrific prospect. He's one the best prospects that college basketball has seen in many, many years."  
“He has a lot of talent in him. He's a pretty good player,” according to KU’s leading scorer Darrell Arthur who will match up some with Beasley. “He plays physical down low. He makes some good post moves and has some pretty good muscle. We have to keep a body on him and keep him away from the goal. We'll have to keep a lot of bodies on him."

Self concurred with Arthur stating the obvious - no one player can guard Beasley. There will be a revolving door of players in and out of the lineup Wednesday who will all get a shot at one of America’s best. But there is a danger in putting too much emphasis on the nimble D.C. product.

“There’s a balance there that you don’t want to put so much emphasis on an individual that allows other people to get well above their average or whatever. You gotta weigh that because they have guys that can make you pay,” said Self.

“The key is to block everybody out,” senior forward Darnell Jackson stated.  “He is not a one-man team. Beasley can't beat one team by himself. It takes five guys. It maybe even takes seven guys, so we'll concentrate on everybody and not just him."

Martin’s Wildcats are not simply just Beasley. His supporting cast has certainly carried its weight in leading K-State to a 14-4 record and unblemished Big 12 mark (4-0). Michael’s frontcourt mate Bill Walker averages over 15 a game and is capable of spreading the defense to help give Beasley more room to operate. Walker’s three-point ability must be respected and he leads the team from long range. The purple duo could be the best 1-2 punch in the country this season.

“Everyone talks about Beasley, rightfully so, he’s a terrific player. But if Beasley wasn’t on this team Walker would be getting the same type of publicity that Beasley is. Walker, I mean everybody’s known since he was in ninth grade the guy’s a pro,” Self informed reporters on Monday.

“He’s got unbelievable god-given athletic ability. His skill set has increased tremendously and he’s a terrific player and they’re a great-great 1-2 punch. Bill is the type of player in my opinion he could go for 30 any night. They have two guys that could legitimately hang 60 on somebody any night they go out there and not too many teams in America have that, if any.”

Kansas guard Russell Robinson mentioned that the guards will have to do their part in stopping players like Walker and Beasley for KU to succeed in what will be an incredibly hostile environment.

"I think the main point of not getting the ball inside is pressuring their guards. We don't want to make it easy for them to get it into the post,” Robinson said Monday.

“We need to do a good job of creating enough havoc where they don’t get easy vision to the post. Because he’s (Beasley) going to get open,” Self continued. “He’s going to catch the ball, he’s going to catch the ball some at three feet, and if he can’t catch the ball at three, he’ll catch it at six. He’ll catch it nine and he’ll just go where he has to in order to catch it. He’s got an offensive repertoire enough that he can put the defense in a difficult situation either off the catch or off the bounce and he’s just a really good player.”

So it could come down to a matchup of K-State’s dynamic duo vs. KU’s incredible balance.

Only one player not named Walker or Beasley has led KSU in scoring in any game this season and that was Andre Gilbert vs. Rider back in late November. Conversely in its last six games, Kansas has had five different leading scorers.

If Kansas needs any added motivation for this key Big 12 contest look no further than Beasley who has stated on a couple of occasions that he believes KU’s success against its in-state rival will come to a screeching halt. The quote this summer went something like this.

“We’re gonna beat KU at home. We’re going to beat ‘em at their house. We’re going to beat them in Africa. Wherever we play ‘em, we’re going to beat ‘em.”

Monday, coach Martin was asked about his star player’s predictions.

“Do you think Darrell Arthur is going to become a better player because of what Michael says? I mean do you think Kansas is going to become a better team because of what Michael says. I mean they’re competing for a national championship do you think that’s going to make them better?

“They’re going to play hard. Kansas is as good as it gets. Mike said what he felt in his heart. I mean it’s what he believes. He didn’t come here to lose to Kansas. If he would’ve lined up and said, ‘yeah you know we’re going to try to beat ‘em, I don’t know if we’re good enough,” then he wouldn’t be on this team. I’d ask him to leave. I don’t want guys around me who don’t believe we can win every game on our schedule. It’s what he said, it’s what he believes and it is what it is,” Martin concluded.

And it is conference tilt that has the fans, coaches, players, and media fired up.

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