Kansas State called this one. Might as well call Michael Beasley Joe Namath.
An upset of No. 2 Kansas on Wednesday – the Jayhawks' first loss of the season – was proclaimed long ago by the Wildcats' star freshman, who had yet to play a game for K-State.
"We're gonna beat KU at home," Beasley said last summer. "We're gonna beat 'em at their house. We're gonna beat 'em in Africa. Wherever we play we're gonna beat 'em."
He's a man of his word.
Wednesday, with No. 22 K-State riding a 24-game home losing streak to their in-state rival, Beasley's crew made good on the promise, thanks to some nifty three-point shooting (12-of-26 from beyond the arc) and a host of offensive rebounds.
Leading the way was Beasley (25 points, 6 boards in 38 minutes) and fellow fab freshman Bill Walker (25 points, 5 boards despite foul trouble). The pair also did their part on defense. They frustrated KU's big men, as Darnell Jackson and Darrell Arthur never appeared comfortable and combined for just 19 points. (How Jackson takes just 2 shots in 30 minutes is beyond me. He's one of the game's most efficient offensive players, but was never a factor Wednesday.)
If there was any doubt about Beasley, this game answered it. Against a deep, tall Kansas team, he thrived. Beasley didn't force many shots, showed off his inside-outside game (when he wasn't taking it to the basket, he was hitting all four of his three-point attempts) and stayed out of foul trouble despite guarding bigger guys all night. It all reinforced what we all knew: the guy's ridiculously good.
Beasley leads the NCAA in rebounding and is fourth in scoring. I think he and Tyler Hansbrough are the country's two best players. So do others. But this game – and the bazillion SportsCenter highlights sure to follow – should cement Beasley atop that list.
Before the game, Kansas coach Bill Self had this to say about Beasley.
"I thought you would never see a freshman dominate college basketball as Durant did as the unanimous National Player of the Year. Michael [Beasley] has that same opportunity in front of him, if he finishes the season strong, to be the National Player of the Year also."
It's just too bad more people couldn't watch the game. The night's other's Top 25 matchup, Texas vs. Texas A&M, was slotted as Wednesday's Big 12 game. That figures to change with Beasley, like Durant did last year, carving his way into sports highlights as March approaches.
As if having player like Beasley and Walker isn't enough to attract attention, Kansas State is a team worth watching. I've been slow to come around on the Wildcats – as I'm Kansas graduate, it pains me to say as much – but they're good. A month ago, they were thumped by nearly 30 points against Xavier. Yet they've won six straight, have the country's best player, another NBA caliber player in Walker and key role players who all play great defense.
"We're not as dependent on one player anymore," coach Frank Martin said after the game. "Whenever you can beat a team like Kansas, it's a monumental thing."
No kidding. Kansas entered the game as most people's team "playing the best basketball right now," but came away looking like less of a Final Four lock and a team that'll have to play better perimeter defense and get more consistent inside scoring. If nothing else, the Jayhawks got that pesky first loss out of the way.
"We weren't going to run the table," Self said. "As much as I wish we could, that wasn't going to happen. So this could be a good thing for us in the long run. But certainly it stings."