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Archive for Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Sorrentino: Beasley embraces pressure

February 20, 2008

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It has been an interesting year for men's basketball in the Big 12 Conference.

We've seen two teams battle through five overtimes in one game. We've seen college basketball's all-time winningest coach resign six games into the conference season.

We've followed a team that won its first 20 games. We've witnessed two of Manhattan's star-powered freshmen help their team break an embarrassing 24-year losing streak at home.

And there still are three weeks until the Big 12 Conference tournament.

The goal of the new Big 12 Spotlight page is to expand the Journal-World's coverage and that of KUSports.com to include content from the 11 conference schools outside of Lawrence.

This one-stop Big 12 shop is aimed at not only KU fans who are curious about other Big 12 schools, but also the many Lawrence residents who attended other Big 12 schools.

That brings us to this week's theme: clutch shooters in the conference.

With three teams (Kansas, Texas and Kansas State) within one game of each other at the top of the Big 12 standings, this list is bound to grow by season's end.

For now, the focus centers on the most clutch shooter on the list: K-State's Michael Beasley.

Sure, he's also the best player in the conference, but that's beside the point. The standard for fitting the "clutch" label is: "Who would you want taking the shot in a tie game with 10 seconds left?"

Or think of it this way: "Who from the opposing team do you fear most to break the tie?"

Field-goal percentage statistics suggest Oklahoma freshman Blake Griffin, who leads the conference with a .567 shooting percentage on a minimum of five buckets made per game, would be a solid candidate.

It's more than just numbers, though. The most clutch shooter has to want the ball so badly that he's not afraid to miss. The more hesitation at the buzzer, the better the chance of misfiring.

Here's the part about Beasley that made him run away with my nomination: He makes you pick a poison.

With a specialist such as UT guard A.J. Abrams from the outside, teams can overstress the perimeter to make him a slightly less effective option.

With Beasley, it's different. Take away the perimeter, and he'll make his living under the basket. Just ask Oklahoma, which saw Beasley nail a game-winning layup with 2.3 seconds left on Jan. 12.

Overstress the paint, and Beasley can step outside with the 25.7 points per game and .548 field-goal percentage invisibly tattooed to his forehead.

Whoever takes the last shot in the final three weeks, particularly those players from conference-leading Kansas, Texas or Kansas State, could decide who wins the Big 12 championship this season.

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