While Beasley electrifies, it shouldn’t be a shocker if UNC’s Hansbrough is national player of the year
By Kate Hairopoulos
Dallas Morning News
09:49 PM CST on Thursday, March 6, 2008
CHAPEL HILL, NC - MARCH 04: Tyler Hansbrough #50 of North Carolina Tar Heels controls the ball in front of Julian Vaughn #21 of Florida State Seminoles during the first half at the Dean E. Smith Center on March 4, 2008 in Chapel Hill, North Carolina. North Carolina defeated Florida State 90-77. (Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)
Kansas State freshman Michael Beasley is an unbelievable college basketball player, and he could be the No. 1 pick in this year's NBA draft.
"I love watching him play," ESPN analyst Fran Fraschilla said. "He's a basketball savant."
Beasley's statistics – he averages 26.9 points and an NCAA Division I-leading 12.6 rebounds per game – are mind-blowing.
But the 6-10 power forward is not getting my vote for national college basketball player of the year.
Like it or not, that honor should go to North Carolina's Tyler Hansbrough. The 6-9, 250-pound junior forward from Poplar Bluff, Mo., has earned the nickname "Psycho-T" for his intensity.
When the comparisons are close, it is OK to vote not just for the best player, but to vote for the best player who makes his team one of the best. Hansbrough has willed UNC (28-2) back to the nation's top ranking. He elevated his play when floor-leader Ty Lawson missed a stretch of games with an ankle injury.
Kansas State is 19-10 and unranked.
This has nothing to do with any bias against Beasley for being a freshman or for playing in Manhattan, Kan., instead of Tobacco Road. It's a philosophy you agree with, or you don't. Fraschilla has the same mind-set.
Last year, Texas' Kevin Durant became the first freshman to sweep the player of the year awards, but his biggest rival was Ohio State freshman Greg Oden. Beasley has more competition. Sure, Beasley will probably be a better NBA player than Hansbrough. That doesn't matter now.
"If Michael Beasley is not the national player of the year," Fraschilla said, "he'll be crying all the way to the bank."
CHAPEL HILL, NC - MARCH 04: Tyler Hansbrough #50 of the North Carolina Tar Heels prepares to dunk against the Florida State Seminoles during the second half at the Dean E. Smith Center on March 4, 2008 in Chapel Hill, North Carolina. North Carolina defeated Florida State 90-77. (Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)
Hansbrough averages 23.3 points and 10.4 rebounds. With Lawson out, he averaged 28 points and 12.1 rebounds. North Carolina – which has a rematch Saturday night at No. 6 Duke – has won seven straight.
"He's the most valuable player on one of the best teams in the country," Fraschilla said. "But his value to his team transcends his scoring and his rebounding stats."
Hansbrough is best known for his passion and focus, which is easy to love or hate depending on how you view Carolina blue.
When Hansbrough is on the court, you can practically see his all-out adrenaline rush. There's something in his eyes that makes it apparent that nothing in the world is more important than finding a way for the Heels to win.
It's impossible to think of him without remembering when a Duke player broke Hansbrough's nose last season, and blood gushed everywhere.
"It's hard to improve on being a two-time All-America, but he's better than a year ago on both ends of the floor," UNC coach Roy Williams said in a statement e-mailed to AP voters for national player of the year. "Every team we play zeroes in on trying to shut him down, yet he's still dominating games. He has been even more sensational down the stretch. He's going to be mentioned some day with the greatest players to ever play for the Tar Heels, and that is saying a lot."
CHAPEL HILL, NC - MARCH 04: Tyler Hansbrough #50 of North Carolina Tar Heels draws a foul from Julian Vaughn #21 of Florida State Seminoles during the first half at the Dean E. Smith Center on March 4, 2008 in Chapel Hill, North Carolina. (Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)
Fraschilla appreciates Hansbrough for what he terms an often invisible skill: the ability to play hard on every possession.
"He embodies that," Fraschilla said. "He gets everything out of his ability. That, to me, separates him."
Even from Beasley.