Should They Stay Or Should They Go?

Your basic evaluations as to which high profile freshmen should be declaring for the Association or should decide to stick around for another season in the college ranks.

Derrick Rose, Memphis – Guaranteed lottery pick, and depending upon the franchise that lands the first overall pick, could go #1 in the draft. Regardless of what happens against Kansas tonight, should punch his ticket to the Association.

Michael Beasley, Kansas State – If you are averaging 26 points and more than 10 boards a game in your freshman year in college in a conference like the Big 12, you are probably ready to go pro. Those are numbers beating Carmelo Anthony’s marks, and if Beasley had someone else to play with outside of Bill Walker the Wildcats might have gotten further.

Jerryd Bayless, Arizona – Already declared, might have wanted to stay another year. It may not be fair or right, but he reminds me a lot of a bit less polished version of Gilbert Arenas (and no, it isn’t necessarily because he wore “0” at Airzona too.)  He’ll probably turn out fine, but a year actually being coached by Lute Olson and a more open offensive system would have been better for him.

Eric Gordon, Indiana – I really don’t know if there was any other choice than for Gordon to leave.  There was too much instability and uncertainty about NCAA violations that Kelvin Sampson left with that Gordon might have been stuck with a school that could be punished severely. He was consistently good in conference, but faded when hitting the Big 10 and NCAA tourneys.

O.J. Mayo, USC – Started out his freshman year flat, got much better as Pac-10 conference play rolled on and grew into his role as leader.  Honestly, he needs to stay one more year and then he’ll be set to go. There are some shot creation situations he could use some more work on, at least from what I could see when I watched USC games this season.

Kevin Love, UCLA – After watching him just get boxed in by Memphis’ front-court tandem on Saturday, he needs to spend another year in Westwood lifting weights and focusing that post game further. The Tigers had players that are the caliber of guys Love will see in the Association — and he just looked kind of schlubby in comparison.

Photo: AP/Matt York

More ACC Slobber-Knocking, Yet Again

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]

Short Notes On College Hoops

Arizona is probably going to miss the tournament save a very deep run in the Pac-10 tournament — and losing a very, very close game to UCLA was really the last thing the Wildcats needed.  Obviously, most teams in college hoops don’t have a way to really body up on Kevin Love, but the Wildcats don’t have enough talent on the floor to match up in a conference with one stand-out team and a few other good ones crowding for space (Arizona State, Wazzu, USC) and tourney bids.   The program may be in transition, and it needs a solid post player to go with it next season.

Tennessee ekes out a needed victory over a surprisingly resilient Kentucky squad, one without Patrick Patterson — and while it does give us a glimpse of how the Vols were able to bounce back, I’m a bit more impressed with the work Kentucky is doing after such a tough start to the season.  Billy Clyde Gillispie will be okay in Lexington — if he keeps being competitive now, wait until more of his recruits come in to town.

Is getting blown out by 29 points merely a blip or a harbinger for Indiana? The recent chain of events in Bloomington doesn’t necessarily point to anything good in that regard, but considering that this is the Big Ten we are talking about, the Hoosiers have enough talent to get over, if not actually being a Final Four threat.  The Spartans just came out hot early and got so far in front that it wasn’t ever really close.

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Above The Rim: Walking In Memphis (All-College Edition)

Tennessee 66, Memphis 62 – Chris Lofton has an off night with two layups and Tennessee takes the win on the road thanks to good bench play and Memphis’ inability to make free throws (again, I will not pick them to make a Final Four until they shoot at least 60% as a team). Derrick Rose still looks like a dynamo who’s ready to play 82 games.

Indiana 85, Northwestern 82 – The players show support for their departed coach (Kelvin Sampson) on their shoes while picking up what usually is a gimme win in Evanston that was anything but, considering the tension.

Drake 71, Butler 64 – The Humane Society is offended at such a dogfight, but the rest of us were entertained when two teams of Bulldogs faced each other: Drake got 25 from sophomore Josh Young, including the closing free throws that put the game out of reach. A.J. Graves led Butler with 18.

Baylor 92, Kansas State 86 – Yes, apparently you can have a team where one player scores 44 (Michael Beasley), another scores 31 (Bill Walker), and still lose when the rest of the team only scores 11 points. Balanced scoring keeps Baylor in the hunt for a tourney spot.

UCLA 75, Oregon 65 – The Ducks, in yet another hideous experimental uniform courtesy of big booster Phil Knight’s company, get up early on the Bruins yet allow them to come back at home in Westwood. Kevin Love gets 15 points and 11 boards, still looks like he needs another year in school.

USC 81, Oregon State 53 – This game was 45-15 or something like that at the half. The Beavers have just fallen apart this season and showed it at the Galen Center. O.J. Mayo led the Trojans with 21.

Arizona 65, Wazzu 55 – Chase Budinger nails down 22 points while Jerryd Bayless chips in 20, doing the “0” in a Wildcats uniform proud. Wazzu’s still in third place in the Pac-10, but Arizona needed it more to keep pace in the standings.

Photo: AP/Mark Humphrey

Above The Rim: Going Jack Bauer On Your Ass

Lakers 130, Suns 124 – Kobe and Shaq, back playing against each other again. Bryant just went balls out late, notching 41 to go with Pau Gasol’s 29 in the Laker win, which was close down to the last minute or so. Shaq played 29 minutes, more than expected, and put in a respectable 15 points and 9 boards. The real test will be how his game continues to flow in the Suns’ offense, while I dream of what it will look like when Andrew Bynum comes back.

Warriors 119, Celtics 117 – Boston is once again reminded why it rules the Eastern Conference, losing the first two games of its Western Conference road swing. Baron Davis nails the game winner with three-tenths left. Monta Ellis pumped in 26, and Andris Biedrins matched KG’s 17 and 15 boards with 21 and 13 boards of his own. Ray Allen got wicked with six threes and 32 points total.

Hornets 104, Mavs 93 – Not exactly an auspicious return to the Mavs franchise for J-Kidd: 9 points, 5 dimes, 6 turnovers (in his first career NBA game, he had a triple double, a harbinger of things to come.) Chris Paul was one steal away from a triple double (31 points, 11 assists, nine steals); does anyone know if there was ever a triple-double with 10 or more steals as part of the stat line?

76ers 124, Knicks 84 – As if there were no more depths for Isiah Thomas to plumb. Philly had scored 100 after three quarters.

Miami 96, Duke 95 – The Blue Devils can’t come back from 20 down after not hitting threes for way too long. Miami gets its first win over Duke since 1962.

Memphis 94, Tulane 71 – Chris Douglas-Roberts scores 29 to keep Memphis undefeated and get John Calipari his 400th win.

Tennessee 89, Auburn 70 – The Vols are led by Ramar Smith’s 19, headed towards a weekend showdown for #1 with the aforementioned Memphis team.

Nebraska 74, Kansas State 68 – The Cornhuskers hold Michael Beasley scoreless for the first nine minutes and shoot 52% to pull off the upset. Beasley still manages to tie Carmelo Anthony’s single-season double-double record.

Photo: AP/Ross D. Franklin

You’re Either Very Naive Or Bad Liars.

Anyone with half a brain knew that as soon as former WVU coach John Beilein made a, well, beeline for the University of Michigan’s vacant men’s hoops head coaching gig (he must have really wanted to get out of Morgantown if he was willing to pay part of his own buyout) that Kansas State coach Bob Huggins was one and done in Manhattan, off to his alma mater.

K-State AD Tim Weiser and president Jon Wefald clearly lack half a brain between the two of them, and played indignant when Huggins’ departure was official.

“If Bob had indicated to us about a year ago this time that he needed something in his contract about his alma mater, then we would have gone on,” Wefald said. “We would have looked at somebody else.”

Shenanigans. You hired Huggins despite his poor graduation rates, his DUI, and other red flags because you wanted to be a Big 12 power, and you wanted a name coach to get you there and recruit players who could contribute to that. Every columnist at the KC Star (including a certain Uncle Ruckus) has gotten this one right: these guys are bullshitting hard, playing the naif for print and camera, especially when they promoted two of Huggy Bear’s assistants at K-State to head coach and associate head coach, who are basically known for nothing save an incoming recruiting class that includes Michael Beasley.

And it makes complete sense to do that from a basketball standpoint: Billy Gillispie and Acie Law IV have both left Texas A&M; Rick Barnes may be still be at Texas, but Kevin Durant most likely won’t be; Bill Self and Kansas will still dominate the Big 12, but there’s serious room for a new #2. Just don’t play like you got suckered. Both K-State’s AD and prez knew what they were getting into, and signed that deal with the devil. Beasley’s apparently going to honor his commitment, so sayeth his mother — so you’re getting what you paid for.