I feel like I need to preface this by saying that I like reading Grant Wahl in SI, more often than not, because I just cannot conceive how any publication right now can decide that UNC’s Tyler Hansbrough is really college basketball’s player of the year — not with Michael Beasley around. The ACC isn’t even particularly good this year; it’s Duke and UNC, mostly, and not only are the Pac-10 and Big East more competitive, but the Atlantic-10 may be rivaling it as a conference right now.
Essentially, Wahl has based his argument, and gotten support for it, based on the notion of how the team is doing (UNC is 27-2, K-State is 18-10). This is a problem. Do you think K-State is even over .500 and looking at the possibility of a tourney slot without Beasley? Not even close. His scoring averages and his rebounds, along with the production from Bill Walker, make up the Wildcats offense and makes them a threat. UNC rolls nine deep on blue-chip talent every damn year. I won’t say Hansbrough isn’t a good to great player — but the Tar Heels will find another forward like him when he leaves and will somehow manage to cruise to the NCAA tourney.
I’ll excerpt here:
Hansbrough’s individual numbers are certainly good enough; he and Beasley were two of only six players averaging at least 20 points and 10 boards. What’s more, Psycho-T has been a tougher defender, and he clearly outpaces B-Easy in the most important deal breaker: North Carolina was 27-2 and ranked No. 1 on Monday (not least because Hansbrough averaged 29.0 points during the six games that point guard Ty Lawson recently missed because of injury), while unranked Kansas State was 18-10.
Sure, Beasley is likely to be the No. 1 pick in the next NBA draft — at least 15 spots ahead of Hansbrough, should both declare for the pros this year — but the last time we checked, POY was a college award. “Beasley is a better player,” says Gonzaga coach Mark Few, “but with the year Carolina has had and the fact that [Hansbrough] plays every second like it’s his last, I’d vote for him. When we were getting ready to play Carolina [last season], we’d show clips of him to our guys and say, ‘See, this is what we mean when we talk about playing hard.’ He’s putting out more effort for longer stretches than most college players can even begin to understand. And he’s certainly great for college basketball.”
Hansbrough’s credentials are impressive enough, but it’s hard not to give him bonus points for squeezing out every bit of his potential, for never coasting, for giving three All-America seasons to the college game during an era in which nobody expects more than one. “Tyler is not even the most gifted player on my team, much less the most gifted player in college basketball,” says Williams. “But no one has a bigger heart. No one has more desire than Tyler Hansbrough.”
I smell the same damn argument that baseball writers use in glorifying the gritty, gutty nature of David Eckstein, and it reeks. National player of the year should have less to do with the overall team record — particularly when measuring a player on a non-powerhouse program against one on a perennial favorite for an NCAA title — and measure the real impact in numbers on the game and in the program’s won-loss record. Michael Beasley may be one and done, headed to the NBA next year — but he should be making the jump by following Kevin Durant as the second freshman to win the honor.
Hopefully, the folks responsible for the Naismith Award aren’t reading SI too closely this time.
March Madman [Sports Illustrated]