It’s been debated ad nauseum this week on college basketball talk platforms around the country.
Is Michael Beasley the National Player of the Year or is it North Carolina’s Tyler Hansbrough?
Saturday night Beasley got into early foul trouble and was a big reason
why his team got off to such a poor start. Head coach Frank Martin did
a terrific job squeezing every possible minute out of Michael in the
first half by utilizing offense-defense substitutions for his big man
on dead balls. Though he struggled for most of the first half, at the
end of the night Beasley managed to give pundits 39 reasons why he just
might be the best in the game this season.
He’s left quite a long list of defenders in his wake on the
way to a mind-boggling 25 double-doubles. And Kansas was no different.
KU attempted to slow him down by using several different defenders (I
counted six different players who spent time guarding him), and even
used a 3-2 zone for a large majority of the night. Yes, Beasley is that
good. Good enough to force a quality team like Kansas, who’s
not a zone team, into playing one for a large chunk of an important
conference tilt. KU head coach Bill Self even used one possession of a
diamond-and-one junk defense.
In my mind, the debate is over. The 6-10 phenom scored 39 tonight and
some remarked he had a so-so game. So-so game? What other player in the
country could score 39 and provoke that type of comment? Beasley is the
best player, but he plays for a team teetering on the bubble and one
that no longer has a chance to win the Big 12. There’s no
doubt he’s K-State’s go-to player, in fact tonight
he seemed like the Wildcats ONLY player. Beasley was the target of a
merciless crowd chanting “Africa” – that
in reference to his summer guarantee - and cheering with every miss. He
overcame the crowd in the stands and the one he drew on the court but
he left the gym on the losing side.
On the other side of the coin, the talk continued this week that
KU’s perceived lack of a go-to-guy would keep the Jayhawks
from winning a national title.
Earlier in the week ESPN College Basketball analyst Jimmy Dykes stated,
“What I love about Kansas is its balance,” and
“what worries me about Kansas is its balance.”
Dykes was referring to the idea that KU does not have a go-to player.
When Beasley leaves the game, the Wildcats suffer a huge drop off. When
Darnell Jackson picks up two quick fouls or Darrell Arthur sits for
long periods of time there is Sasha Kaun. When Russell Robinson is
taking a rest, a healthy Sherron Collins enters the game and
doesn’t skip a beat.
Teams can’t game plan to take away one person.
It would be tough to pick out one MVP for the Jayhawks, I
don’t think K-State ever has that problem. Five different
Kansas players scored in the first five minutes of the game with Arthur
leading the way with six points. Darnell Jackson put it out of reach by
scoring eight of KU’s first 13 points of the second half.
Brandon Rush nearly notched a career-high by scoring 21, and Sherron
Collins came off the bench to score 18. Collins even enjoyed a stretch
where he made six consecutive shots from the field. The point is that
everyone does their part.
Beasley was the only Wildcat in double-figures. Five Kansas players
reached the double-figure mark for the fifth time this season
– Kansas is 5-0 in those games. Beasley notched his eighth
straight double-double – K-State is 3-5 in those games.
There’s not a coach in the country who wouldn’t
love to have Beasley on his roster - and that includes Frank Martin -
but I’ll bet there are a lot of coaches who’d like
to look down the bench and find the answers that Self can. Kansas
continues to play like a team. Self used nine players Saturday
– all recorded two or more rebounds helping KU win the battle
of the boards 41-34. Four different players had three or more assists,
and the list goes on.
But what analysts like Dykes want to know is who will be “the
man” to get that shot or that critical rebound when it
matters most in March? Ask five different people and you
might get five different answers, and for right now, I don’t
think that’s a bad thing for Kansas.
Beasley Wins, But So Does KU
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