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Austin Rivers: Sub-Zero Will Explode in Duke's Postseason Run

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
Brian MaziqueCorrespondent IIIMarch 3, 2012

Sub-Zero already dealt the North Carolina Tar Heels a brutality, but the best is yet to come for Duke's super freshman. I could almost see the words "Finish Him" come on the screen as Austin Rivers prepped to take and make the game-winning three in Chapel Hill to defeat the arch rival Tar Heels. 

Rivers did not disappoint, and with the regular season coming to a close, he is primed to take his game to the next level in the postseason.

Before Rivers and the Dukies officially move on to the postseason, they must play the regular season finale, and rematch with UNC. This one will feel like a tournament game, so it's a good tune-up for both teams. Expect Rivers to shine once again, even in the face of immense pressure to maintain his solid play.

His play over the past month is exactly what has me sure he is ready to explode during March Madness. In February, Rivers averaged 18 points per game, including four-20 point performances. That was as many as he had in the entire season through November, December and January.

Rivers is peaking at the right time, his confidence and comfort level is at all time high. That is bad news for Duke's opponents.

He is also playing under control, Rivers is averaging under three turnovers per contest. The increased scoring isn't leading to more turnovers, that tells me Rivers is more efficient.

Through this disciplined but stellar play, Rivers has earned coach Mike Krzyzewski's confidence. It was apparent on the buzzer beater against the Tar Heels. Here is a freshman that Coach K allows to go isolation against a solid defensive team, with the autonomy to make a play.

That is a huge honor, and the fact that Rivers came through only built his confidence and Coach K's confidence in him.

Now as money time approaches, Rivers is the Blue Devils' unquestioned go-to man in clutch situations. Whether he takes the shot or passes off to a teammate, the play will come from him.

It seems that Rivers has made himself the top shooting guard prospect potentially available in a studly 2012 NBA Draft. He may get competition for that distinction from Florida's Brad Beal and UConn's Jeremy Lamb, but no one is as hot as Rivers right now.

The scouts will be in out in force to see players like Rivers produce with the stakes so high.

Rivers' stock will only rise this month as the situation is made for him. He embraces the pressure, his NBA pedigree is a plus, and his coach has given hymn the freedom to play his game.

Duke fans should enjoy him now, because his collegiate career probably only has about seven to 10 more games remaining. It all depends on how far the team advances into the NCAA tournament, and that depends a lot on Rivers.

Stay tuned, it should be exciting.

 

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