Beasley Wins, But So Does KU

Michael Beasley showed why he is one of the favorites for National Player of the Year. But it was Kansas that showed why it is a national championship contender Saturday night in a raucous Phog Allen Fieldhouse.

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.

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