Let me preface what I am about to post by saying that I like Tyler Hansbrough. I don't mean personally, I mean as a basketball player. I don't know him personally. For all I know he could be a typical 20-something frat boy jerk, although admittedly he comes across as very likable in interviews. But as far as what he does on the court, it certainly works at the collegiate level. He scraps, he draws fouls (and then actually hits foul shots! Novel concept), he brings energy that his team feeds off of, and he's a decent athlete for a big guy.
I issue that preface because what I am about to say will sound like I am hating on Tyler Hansbrough. I am not. I am merely sharing with all of you the nausea that was inflicted upon me by Mike Patrick and Dick Vitale on Saturday during the UNC-Virginia Tech game. Anybody who has watched a game called by Patrick and Vitale knows that they can latch onto something and then proceed to beat us over the head for the next two hours with their overly glowing opinions on said subject matter (which are delivered from each of them as the gospel truth), oftentimes to the detriment of the broadcast. Now for Vitale and Patrick, this was hallowed ground previously reserved for all things Duke (interspersed with the occasional "Indiana is clinically insane if they don't re-hire Bobby Knight" rant from Vitale), but with the Blue Devils turning into a rich man's version of a run and gun, bombs away mid-major this season, it appears Dukie V and Patrick have found a new play toy and it's Psycho T.
Now circling back to my preface, I like Tyler Hansbrough. He is certainly deserving of All American mention and even Player of the Year accolades. (Myself, I would go with Michael Beasley, but Hansbrough's had a great year.) But the Virgina Tech game on Saturday was essentially a two hour infomercial for Tyler Hansbrough with Vitale and Patrick taking turns playing Ron Popeil. (The last second jumper by Psycho T to win the game was basically the equivalent of the perfectly cooked meal coming out of the Turbo Cooker at the end of the infomercial.)
Hansbrough is a very good college player, but to hear Vitale and Patrick gush about him for two hours consecutively, you'd think that science found a way to create a Larry Bird/Moses Malone cyborg and they named him Tyler Hansbrough. Put it this way -- they spent the first two minutes of the game talking entirely about Hansbrough. I got a phone call and muted the TV. When I hung up the phone ten minutes later and came back, guess who they were talking about. Right.
Here are a few of the gems (in bold, and admittedly, I am paraphrasing from memory) with my thoughts, and be warned -- this is where I will start to sound like a Psycho T hater when in fact, I see myself merely as a Psycho T realist:
"He is really fast!" (Patrick after watching Hansbrough knock a ball away from one of Virginia Tech's guards from behind)
Not really, Mike. He just happens to be one of the few bigs in the country who would make the effort to chase down a guard from behind. He is a decent athlete. Energetic? Yes. Fast? No.
"Oh he gives sooooo much effort! He plays with more passion than anyone I've seen in my 29 years in this business!!! He's AWESOME, BABYYYYYYY!!!" (Vitale stroking out about Hansbrough's passion. This happened no fewer than 412 times during the broadcast, including on a play where Hansbrough got a dunk off of a "look what I found" rebound with no Virginia Tech player within ten feet of him.)
Vitale is constantly beating us over the head with the whole "most passionate player I've ever seen in 29 years" opinion. I don't know exactly how he measures this? Floor burns? Horrible white guy dances after buzzer beaters? Glazed psychotic look after getting bloodied by Gerald Henderson? Diameter of eyeballs? It has to be a combination of these elements because these are the only areas I can see where Hansbrough has truly distinguished himself from other "passionate" players. Psycho T brings it every night, I just don't know why Vitale has decided he is the most passionate player ever, other than the obvious ESPN-induced groupthink which states that anything happening right now is "the best ever!!".
"Hey, why not throw that shot up there? It actually goes in for him sometimes." (Vitale after Hansbrough threw up one of his patented off balance, fadeaway, below the rim, baseline heaves that barely caught rim)
Yeah, it goes in 10% of the time. They should try it every time down the floor. Huh?
"He's the type of kid who would come back for his senior year" (Patrick after a brief interplay with Vitale where they discussed Hansbrough leaving UNC after this season for the NBA Draft)
I think this was meant to be a "the kid is so infectious and just loves college" comment. The fact of the matter is that Patrick and Vitale are ignoring the 800 LB gorilla in the room -- Hansbrough is a marginal NBA prospect, at best. Anyone who follows mock drafts knows that Hansbrough would have probably been at best a late first round pick after his freshman year. Ditto his sophomore year. Now go to some of the mock draft sites and where do they have the great Psycho T? Same thing. Late first round, early second round. Hell, NBAdraft.net has him as a late first round pick ... in 2009! In other words, he is what he is, and the people who scout NBA talent for a living see him as having reached his ceiling. And it's a ceiling where if he were to come out, he'd be at serious risk of being a second round pick and not getting the guaranteed pay day that comes with being a first rounder. Unless he just hates college, of course he should come back to school for his senior year!
By the way, if Tyler Hansbrough has reached his ceiling (and unless he all of a sudden develops three point range on his jumper, I think he has) and if "he is what he is" as an NBA prospect, then what exactly is that? Honestly, I think Tyler Hansbrough is a role player on the NBA level, maybe a rich man's Mark Madsen. I don't think his post up game translates well at all to the NBA. He plays below the rim and his signature back to the basket move is that turnaround shot where he leans into the defender and flips it toward the rim (which gets sent back at him more than Vitale and Patrick would care to admit). Also, he gets a ton of points from the foul line (the last Duke game not withstanding) and he's not going to get "Player of the Year" respect from NBA referees. He's never gonna be a guy you run plays for in the NBA, so he's going to get most of his points by crashing the boards and getting garbage buckets. He is an effort guy, and unlike Madsen he can shoot a little bit, so there's definitely a place for him, but he'll never be a 20-10 (or even a 12-8 guy). I will predict right now that Vitale's head will explode during the NBA Draft when Hansbrough drops to late first round, and he'll scream about how (fill in name of NBA team here) is getting a "great kid, a passionate kid, and an absolute steal at the 29th pick overall, BABYYYYYYY!!!"
So Coach K, you better start sending Dickie V some fruit baskets. His voice is back and he's got a brand new object of his affection. And that play toy's name is Psycho T.