In sports you can always count on discussions about several things: stats, winners, losers, facts and opinions.
But the single greatest instigator of discussion has to be the "what if," that hypothetical postulate thrown out at a bar, in your living room or by a talking head on a screen near you.
What if Ali had fought Tyson? What if Jordan could face off in his prime with James? What if Crash Davis had one more crack in the show?
The questions can never be answered, but they are fun to discuss. As college basketball is starting up, some of those same hypotheticals are being batted around, with players being compared to other players current and past.
One that has come to mind is the hypothetical matchup between Duke's freshman point guard Kyrie Irving and former Kentucky Wildcat John Wall.
Granted, they may eventually meet up in the NBA, both in their primes, but they will never square off in the college game, which is much different than the pros.
Had Wall stayed in college, he would of course have had the advantage being the older player with a year of experience. But in the hypothetical world, the equivalent to the Matrix in sports, a writer can make anything a reality.
What if Wall and Irving were both freshmen playing against one another? Who would you rather have?
Tale of the Tape: The Physical Matchup
John Wall: 6'4", 20 years old, 195 lbs.
Kyrie Irving: 6'2", 18 years old, 175 lbs.
Like any prizefight, the announcers will break down the tale of the tape discussing age, reach, weight and the like.
In this case it is clear that Wall has a bit of a size advantage in height and weight. Granted, these are his currently posted Washington Wizards stats, and Irving's are what Duke reports.
Still, you figure Wall is taller, even if he would have weighed a few less pounds while in college.
Wall uses his size and incredible speed to his advantage, as he is so explosive going to the basket. Irving, on the other hand, is smaller, and while maybe not as fast, he is still mind-blowingly quick with the basketball.
You couldn't go wrong with either guy in terms of speed, but ultimately this physical matchup is won by Wall due to his greater size and explosiveness.
Much is made about Walls' explosiveness, but for all of his size and speed, when he was in college he was simply not a great shooter.
So far in his first two games for Duke, Irving has shot 50 percent from the floor and 50 percent from three-point range. He has averaged 15 points per game and shot 92.3 percent from the free-throw line.
In Wall's first two games he had exactly the same percentages from the floor and behind the arc. He was, however, only 68 percent from the charity stripe.
Walls numbers would decline as the season progressed and he would end up shooting 46 percent from the floor, 32.5 percent from three-point range and only 75 percent from the free-throw line.
Granted, Irving has only played two games, and it is a bit early to compare the two purely on those statistics, but given his smaller stature, he has had to develop his shot more than Wall did.
With his size and explosiveness, Wall could simply get his shots and points going to or near the basket. He didn't have to rely on shooting as much as the smaller Irving.
So while it is still early, based on the theories of Darwin, Irving would have adapted to be a more successful and experienced shooter at this stage in his career than Wall.
Distribution and Loss
The mark of any great point guard is whether they can run the offense and distribute the basketball to teammates.
The effectiveness is generally measured in assist-to-turnover ratio. More assists and fewer turnovers typically means that a point guard is efficient with the basketball.
Considering the sample size to compare is still only two games it might still be premature to declare a clear-cut winner, but so far Irving has a slight edge.
In his first two games for Kentucky, Wall had 11 assists and 11 turnovers, a ratio of one-to-one. In Irving's first two games he has had 11 assists but only three turnovers, a markedly better ratio.
Granted, Wall played quite a few more minutes and was relied on to be more of a scoring threat. Irving still gets the edge for now, though.
Confidence and Cockiness
Another quality of any great point guard is the confidence and cockiness to run the show. In this regard there is no doubt that both players are confident in their abilities.
Based on the cockiness factor, Wall would win out. He clearly exudes cockiness, from his chest-popping gesticulations to his little arm-flexing dance, appropriately (if not uncreatively) named the John Wall Dance.
Irving appears to be more of a quietly confident player, not uncharacteristic for someone playing for the much more rigorous and straight-laced Mike Krzyzewski.
This, like confidence and cockiness, is a completely subjective measure. Obviously comparing coaching styles gives some insight as to the team concept each team has.
Like him or loath him, John Calipari has much more of a freewheeling style, and Krzyzewski is much more systematic and disciplined.
Calipari's offense requires a point guard that will run and gun, whereas a Krzyzewski point guard is expected to put the team first and foremost and run the system that is in place.
This isn't to say that either couldn't operate within the other's system, but after two games for Irving and a season for Wall, it looks as if the two players ended up in the right place for their style and their coaches.
So Who's Better?
Kentucky fans without hesitation will tell you Wall and Duke fans will say Irving. Like all things in sports, it is a matter of perspective.
If you needed one player to win one game you might pick the game-changing talents of Wall. But if you needed a guy to run your team for the duration of a season, you'd probably want to go with the heady yet very talented Irving.
In order to answer this question we all will just have to wait and see until they face off in the pros. Because like all hypothetical matchups, this one will never happen in the college game.
But it would certainly be fun to watch.
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