With conference play already winding down (less than three weeks ’till Selection Sunday!), a lively debate has begun about who is deserving of National Player of the Year. While perimeter players like Tennessee’s Chris Lofton and Davidson’s Stephen Curry (if you haven’t seen him play, do it) can make an argument, it’s essentially a two-man race: Kansas State’s freshman phenom and North Carolina’s Tyler Hansbrough.
Beasley follows in the footsteps of last year’s star freshmen, Kevin Durant and Greg Oden. There’s little doubt he’ll be going pro after this year, and there’s little doubt that he’ll be the first pick in June’s NBA Draft. Beasley and freshman teammate Bill Walker have quickly put Kansas State back on the national stage. Over the weekend, he set a Big 12 record with 44 points, upping his scoring average to 26 points to go with 12 rebounds a game. Both of those marks are higher than Durant’s averages last year.
Unfortunately, we haven’t been able to see Beasley on national television as much as we saw Durant, largely because Kansas State games don’t air very often. Last month’s upset over Kansas (a win Beasley guaranteed before the season) wasn’t televised nationally. For those who haven’t seen him play, tonight’s game at Texas will be broadcast on ESPN.
Beasley’s biggest competitor in the National Player of the Year debate is Hansbrough, the psychotic white boy from Chapel Hill. Hansbrough’s physical abilities can’t compare with Beasley’s, but his determination sure can. If it’s possible for the ACC’s leading scorer and rebounder to be “scrappy” and “feisty,” Hansbrough would fit that description.
Although Hansbrough will definitely be a better NBA player than Mark Madsen, it wouldn’t be a huge stretch to say their college games are quite similar. He won’t be a superstar in the NBA, but that doesn’t stop him from being a dominant college player. He initiates contact and gets to the free throw line constantly, where he’s hitting over 80%.
In college sports, a vintage performance or play can all but assure a player of individual glory. Last year’s game in Oklahoma City sealed up Kevin Durant’s Naismith Award. Heisman Trophies have been won on single plays. For Hansbrough and Beasley, it could come down to who plays better in the biggest games of the regular season. For Beasley, his chances come tonight in Austin and Saturday night in Lawrence. For Hansbrough, it’s a rematch with Duke next Saturday.