ESPN.com's Player of the Year: Tyler Hansbrough
It has become a two-man race for college basketball's player of the year. Their numbers are staggering. They are unstoppable, double-double machines. They were both unanimous picks on ESPN.com's All-America team.
But ESPN.com's voters have spoken, and they have declared Tyler Hansbrough the Player of the Year over the talented Michael Beasley.
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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. Hansbrough is the unyielding leader of a title-contending Tar Heels team, and he has been the toughest and most relentless player in the country. Hansbrough is the ultimate teammate that will do anything to win, and his will exceeds his considerable skill. Hansbrough's numbers compare favorably to Beasley's, but Hansbrough's heart is bigger. Beasley is the better talent and prospect, but Hansbrough has had the bigger impact.
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. Offensively, he has developed a turnaround jump shot and a face-up game that now allows him to knock down a 17-foot jumper on a consistent basis. He's impossible to guard one-on-one, and it's hard to double team him because he likes and seeks contact, which allows him to get to the free-throw line and get his opponents in foul trouble. He could have gone pro after his freshman season, and I want to applaud a kid that stayed in school to continue his development on and off the court. He is what college basketball is all about.
PAT FORDE: Why Tyler Hansbrough: Before his senior year of high school, I watched Hansbrough play at the Nike All-America camp. Most of us were underwhelmed. "A shorter Joe Wolf," said a veteran NBA scout who was watching Hansbrough at the same time I was. Fast forward to today and you will see a player who has worked insatiably to improve himself and maximize his potential; who revels in team success and never does a thing to detract from it; and who simply plays harder than anyone else. His NBA future doesn't figure to be as bright as Michael Beasley's, but he could end up ruling this college basketball season, with the final act coming on a stepladder in the Alamodome on a Monday night in April.
FRAN FRASCHILLA: I saw Michael Beasley in November and had no problem declaring him the No. 1 pick in June's NBA draft at that time. That's a no-brainer. But Tyler Hansbrough is the player of the year in college basketball. 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 in the absence of point guard Ty Lawson. While Lawson missed time with a high ankle sprain, Hansbrough became an even more dominant player.
ANDY GLOCKNER: We thought we had seen a once-in-a-generation player last season in Kevin Durant, but just a year later, in the same league, Michael Beasley is putting up even better numbers. Beasley is not surrounded by the same level of talent Durant had, especially after the Wildcats lost David Hoskins for the season, but he very well could carry K-State as far in the NCAAs as Durant did Texas. Beasley is a more diverse scorer and a better rebounder than Durant, and he has double-doubles in all but three of K-State's games. What Tyler Hansbrough has done in carrying North Carolina, especially through Ty Lawson's absence, has been incredibly impressive, but Beasley is, hands down, the nation's best player.
DOUG GOTTLIEB: Michael Beasley has so dominated the Big 12 that even Kevin Durant's performances from last season pale in comparison. Without a top-flight backcourt, with a first-year head coach and without senior leader David Hoskins, Kansas State is set to go to the Dance for the first time in more than 15 years. The Wildcats defeated KU at home for the first time in 25 years, and Beasley has improved as the season has progressed. He said they would beat KU anywhere and he was half right, but even KU coach Bill Self was too impressed to have an issue with the "we'll beat them in Africa" comment. Why? Because the dude is legit. He hits 3s, scores down low and is a very good shot-blocker and long-armed defender. No offense to Tyler Hansbrough or even D.J. Augustin -- they are terrific -- but Beasley is simply the best.
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. No one should dispute who is a better NBA prospect or who has produced the better numbers. But Hansbrough has had to carry the Tar Heels in a different manner than Beasley. Sure, UNC has more talented supporting players than Kansas State, but Hansbrough still had to do more. He had to take on even more of a leadership role. He picked up his defensive effort. He continued to play with even more passion and purpose (if that's possible) with Lawson out. Hansbrough can go through spells where he doesn't score, but he always seems to make the plays when they matter most. He is tough, committed to the cause of the Tar Heels winning and desperately wants to be in a Final Four and compete for a national championship. While Beasley's numbers seem like he's a cartoon superhero, the award isn't for who is the most talented. It is for who is the player of the year, the most valuable player in college basketball. Hansbrough has been too valuable, too genuine and too dominant to deny him this honor.
DANA O'NEIL: There is no arguing that Michael Beasley is going to be a better NBA talent, that he is a lock for the top draft spot, that he is a ridiculous talent that comes around only once in a blue moon (or two years running if you're the Big 12). But the player of the year isn't the guy with the most prodigious talent. It is the player who lives the cliché, who puts a team on his back and carries it to greatness. This year that player is Tyler Hansbrough. Down to its third point guard, North Carolina dropped just two games and while the Tar Heels were waiting on Ty Lawson, Hansbrough shone. In the six games without Lawson, Hansbrough averaged 29 points and 10.7 rebounds. Despite Beasley's Herculean efforts, Kansas State remains at best an NCAA tourney bubble team. Carolina, on the other hand, has hovered in the top five all season, and Hansbrough has never had a bad night, reaching double figures in every game and recording double-doubles in 16.
REGGIE RANKIN: Michael Beasley has dominated the college basketball scene right from the start this season. There is no doubt in my mind that another freshman should be college basketball's player of the year. Beasley is the nation's third-leading scorer (26.5 points per game) and top rebounder (12.5). He has 12 30-point games, three 40-point games and leads the nation with 25 double-doubles. At 6-foot-10 and 235 pounds, Beasley is as skilled as a 6-5 wing. He can score inside with either hand on turnaround jumpers or on power moves through contact. He can drive from the wing and shoot the 3 with ease. He is a terrific rebounder because he can rebound out of his area, and he will not accept box outs when pursuing the basketball. Also, Beasley possesses great confidence and toughness. He competes at all times and has a tremendous basketball IQ. Many times during the course of the season, Beasley received the ultimate compliment from opponents by facing junk defenses, which might slow him down, but still couldn't stop him from recording staggering numbers.
MARK SCHLABACH: Nobody in the country plays harder or better in the biggest games than Psycho T. How valuable has Tyler Hansbrough been for the Tar Heels this season? After point guard Ty Lawson went down with a severely sprained ankle in early February, Hansbrough stepped up and prevented North Carolina from taking a big step back. In the six games Lawson missed, Hansbrough averaged 29 points and 10.7 rebounds. North Carolina won five of those contests, even as their big man was constantly facing double and triple teams.
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. Just look at what he did in persevering against Duke, putting up 16 points and 15 boards in a hard-fought win. My pick for national player of the year is Hansbrough. To the victor goes the spoils, baby!
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