March 14, 2008

Beasley is clearly college basketball's best

KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- There are healthy ways to kill a morning in Kansas City while waiting for a night tipoff between the Kansas State Wildcats and Texas A&M Aggies at the Big 12 Tournament, and then there is watching ESPN's Tyler Hansbrough lovefest from the ACC Tournament. Someone pass the blood pressure pills.

Hansbrough, North Carolina's outstanding All-American center, was ESPN's choice for national player of the year. According to ESPN basketball play-by-play talent Mike Patrick, he was the "unanimous choice" by the network's handpicked panel of voters. The vote was 8-3 in favor of Hansbrough over K-State's Michael Beasley, which isn't exactly unanimous, but Patrick, sidekick Jimmy Dykes and sideline reporter Stacey Dales spent the two-hour broadcast of the North Carolina-Florida State game raving about Hansbrough's work ethic, cooking skills and love for puppies. (OK, I didn't hear the puppy comment, but I am certain ESPN is convinced Hansbrough loves all cuddly creatures more than Beasley.)

"No one else brings a stronger heartbeat than Tyler Hansbrough. No one else has Tyler Hansbrough," Dykes said.

Dykes didn't actually offer EKG evidence to support this statement, but we will trust that Hansbrough has one heck of a ticker.

Beasley, meanwhile, scores better, rebounds better, defends better, runs the court better and, yes, shares the ball with his teammates better. Even the statistics provided by ESPN prove all of that true. Let's not recite all of the numbers again, but simply point out that Beasley wins all comparisons except free throw percentage and Hansbrough collects on average one-fifth more of a steal per game than B-Easy. Astonishing.

But ESPN's choice for "player of the year" wasn't about who is the best player. That's been true for a lot of the selections this March, which are for the most part picking Hansbrough. Only cbs.sportsline.com so far has selected Beasley, presumably because its panel was actually sober when it voted.

Let's review some of the "reasoning" the members of ESPN's own panel used in arriving at Hansbrough as their choice.

FRAN FRASCHILLA: To me, a national player of the year candidate should be the main reason a team is an elite team. In this case, Hansbrough has particularly shown his worth to No. 1 North Carolina.

HUBERT DAVIS: Tyler Hansbrough is the only player in the country who plays hard all the time, on both ends of the floor and on every possession in games, practice, shootarounds and pickup ball.

ANDY KATZ: Tyler Hansbrough has been the most consistent star player on an elite team this season. He may not be as talented or as prolific a scorer as Michael Beasley.

DICK VITALE: It is clearly a two-man race between Tyler Hansbrough and Michael Beasley. While Beasley may be the more talented of the two, Hansbrough is such a force inside with his hard work and energy.

JAY BILAS: Michael Beasley is the best player in the country and an unstoppable man among men. But, Tyler Hansbrough is my choice as national player of the year.

This borders on absurd. Even those who are picking Hansbrough admit that Beasley is better, but they are picking on criteria that allow them to give Hansbrough the nod. During the UNC-FSU broadcast, Patrick, Dykes and Dales raved about Hansbrough's work ethic and how he works so hard to improve. Folks, Tyler Hansbrough has expanded his game to include a 15-foot jump shot, Patrick informs us. One would think the player of the year, let alone most decent college post players, would already be capable of shooting of jump shot from 15 feet.

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