Duke Basketball: Austin Rivers Will Push Blue Devils to ACC Regular-Season Title

Donald WoodFeatured ColumnistMarch 3, 2012

DURHAM, NC - FEBRUARY 16:  Austin Rivers #0 of the Duke Blue Devils during their game at Cameron Indoor Stadium on February 16, 2012 in Durham, North Carolina.  (Photo by Streeter Lecka/Getty Images)
Streeter Lecka/Getty Images

When the Duke Blue Devils welcome the visiting North Carolina Tar Heels to Cameron Indoor Stadium, there will be more on the line than just rivalry bragging rights and in-state recruiting advantage.

This game is to decide the ACC regular-season title, and that’s where Austin Rivers comes in.

Rivers is the freshman face of the Blue Devils this season, and he will need to put them team on his back once again if Duke wants to squeeze out this important win. The 15.3 points per game the freshman guard is putting up are a team best, but it’s his offensive prowess in key moments that makes the team so dangerous.

If Rivers can get his offensive rhythm going early, he will be able to open the floor enough to find other talented Duke players like Seth Curry and Mason Plumlee.

Rivers told ESPN about his game-winning shot against North Carolina and the confidence it has given him:

They're going to be ready to play because of what happened last time, but so are we. People talk about THE shot. I just look at it as a shot. It does give you confidence, and I think after that, I went back to the kind of swagger or confidence I usually have. And since then, that's what I've been playing with.

With the No. 1 seed in the ACC conference on the line and possibly the No. 1 seed in the NCAA tournament on the line as well, this matchup between heated rivals will be even more intense. That intensity usually exposes frauds and makes great players legends.

Austin Rivers has the chance to become a Duke legend.

With Rivers possibly seeing more Kendall Marshall this time around, Rivers will have to utilize his passing abilities in order to open up shots for his teammates and for himself. The success of Duke tonight rides on the shoulders of the freshman.

If the stock he comes from is any inclination of what to expect, tonight’s game may be River’s best.


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