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Monday, March 24, 2008

Love It or Hate It: Mayo v. Beasley

http://theloveofsports.com/index.php/site/comments/love_it_or_hate_it9/

By Sarah Spain
Love of Sports Correspondent

O.J. Mayo vs. Michael Beasley.

Two of the best freshmen in the country will meet Thursday in the first round of the NCAA tournament.

While there’s little doubt these two future NBA lottery picks will be one-and-done as far as their college careers go, the tourney bracket has ensured that one guy will be one-and-done in the postseason as well.

K-State hasn’t made the tourney in 12 years, but Beasley, averaging 26.5 points and 12.4 rebounds per game, has the people of Manhattan, Kansas putting on their dancing shoes. A beast of a man, "Beast"ley is one of those players that defies the concept of basketball as a team sport. That’s not to say he’s a selfish player (he is in fact, quite the opposite), but rather that if he’s hot, he can win a game single-handedly.

The No. 11 seed in the Midwest regional, the Wildcats are a scary first-round matchup for the Trojans. While they’ve faltered as of late, K-State proved during the season they’ve got what it takes to play with the big boys. In late January, they took down then-No. 2 Kansas during a streak that saw them win 12 of 14 games. While some had worried they might miss the tourney altogether, others now argue their No. 11 seed belies their potential.

The Trojans were under the shadow of crosstown rivals UCLA all season, but that didn’t stop Mayo from grabbing a little of the SoCal spotlight for himself. The 6-foot-5 rookie averaged 20.8 points per game and shot 40.8 percent from behind the arc in his freshman campaign, leading USC to some big wins, including a January victory over the Bruins. He even has his own fan site, http://www.OJMayonnaise.com.

Mayo and Beasley used to play each other in AAU leagues in high school, and now they’ll meet again on college’s biggest stage. The Midwest regional is in Omaha — not exactly home court for either team, but certainly a much shorter plane ride for K-State — a fact not lost on USC supporters. The Trojan fans at my office gasped during the selection show when they saw the dangerous Wildcats slide into the No. 11 slot.

While many are excited to see Beasley and Mayo face off head-to-head, others are wondering if it’s a matchup worthy of a later round. While there are certainly no guaranteed wins in the Big Dance, pitting the two stars against each other does guarantee one will be unceremoniously dumped in the first round.

The media loves this kind of marquis matchup. The pregame stories will be more like the coverage of a boxing match than a basketball game — a battle between two men, not two teams. The hype will be overwhelming.

ESPN and CBS announcers will sheepishly admit to having man-crushes as new heights of hyperbole spill out of them like so many gallons of Gatorade. Vegas bookies will work overtime and NCAA officials will watch the advertising money roll in. Once the game is over, though, one of the most exciting players in college basketball will be out of the tourney and, most likely, done playing college ball.

True, the game will most likely be outstanding, but I hate the idea of one of these guys going home in the first round. What about you?

Are you loving or hating O.J. Mayo vs. Michael Beasley in the first round?

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