KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- In the Big 12's own little insulated world -- that forgotten rainforest micro-society that has produced two consecutive NBA-ready franchise freshmen -- the question is troubling.
How can Kansas State's Michael Beasley not be the player of the year? Until Sports Illustrated endorsed North Carolina's Tyler Hansbrough last week, the thought hadn't crossed my mind.
|Don't worry Michael, you won't lose any votes to Hansbrough here at CBSSports.com. (US Presswire)|
Without Psycho-T, North Carolina, projected as a No. 1 seed, is a No. 3 seed.
Without Beasley, the Wildcats are in the Horizon League -- or thereabouts.
With Beasley, Kansas State has all but clinched its first NCAA Tournament berth in 12 years and only its third in the last 18 years.
How's that for impact player?
Hansbrough went without his point guard for a few games. That's kind of like Prince Charles somehow scraping by without his No. 1 butler. Oh, the agony.
Consider that Beasley has gone without a team around him at times. K-State point guard Jacob Pullen, never to be confused with Carolina's Ty Lawson, is one of three freshmen in the regular rotation.
This thing has split down class and party lines. Freshmen vs. upperclassmen. College basketball royalty (Carolina) vs. peasants (K-State). NBA potential vs. college greatness.
"We've gotten into this NBA-like thing that we have to promote freshmen or promote individual players," Mike Krzyzewski told the Los Angeles Times in December. "I mean, Hansbrough, when he's on the court, is still the best player, whoever he's playing.
"Beasley's terrific, but you don't give player of the year and all this because somebody says he's a better pro prospect. I mean, if we start doing that in college basketball, we should all be hung, or put out in the cold, wintry mix. We should recognize what this is. It's UCLA against North Carolina. It's Duke against Georgetown. That's our niche."
Whatever happened to the law of the playground? If you can play, you can play.
Oh, and how's this for a niche, Coach K? Thirty-nine points and 11 rebounds for Beasley at Allen Fieldhouse.
The Big 12 tournament starts Thursday, actually without Beasley and the Wildcats. That's another good thing. For the second time in 12 years of the Big 12, Kansas State has clinched a first-round bye in the tournament thanks to finishing third in the regular season. That's its highest finish in 19 years.
As long as Beasley's team lasts this weekend the nation will have to cast an occasional eye to the Sprint Center. Last year, Texas' Kevin Durant was a teenage savant as the national player of the year, dropping threes from all over. Beasley is a more complete player.
The rap on Durant was his defense. Beasley, while not exactly a lock-down guy, is a helluva lot better on defense than Durant.
Conclusion: Beasley is better than last season's player of the year. Once again, I'm trying to find a way to wedge Hansbrough into that conversation.
Well, there's blood that equals toughness that equals manliness to some. Beasley has Hansbrough beat there. He doesn't bleed as easily. Hansbrough, we're constantly reminded by the grisly images, suffered a bloody nose against Duke in 2007.
There's a difference between an All-American and a program changer. Consider Beasley's hand in ...
• Revenge. Beasley's 25 points against Kansas on Jan. 30 helped end a 24-year home losing streak to the Jayhawks. On that night, Kansas was determined to shut down Beasley. He took a beating initially against three players down low. Beasley merely took his game (and the defenders) outside and stuck a couple of jumpers
• Getting into the heads of voters. Earlier this season the Wildcats achieved their highest ranking 20 years. That should help recruiting especially after Beasley has indicated on many occasions he didn't know where Kansas the state was located. Now people know, which is nice.
• Turning the turnstiles. Bramlage Coliseum has been selling out regularly. They aren't coming to watch Darren Kent and his 0.7-point average, that's for sure.
• Turning the dial. The moment Bob Huggins arrived K-State became desirable to the networks again. The moment Beasley started asserting himself, the program was mentioned every night on the highlight shows.
Hmm, just like North Carolina.