Duke Basketball: Why Duke Should Not Depend on Austin Rivers

Ro ShiellAnalyst IJuly 27, 2011

Team Work!!
Team Work!!Streeter Lecka/Getty Images

Going into the 2009-2010 season, no one knew what to expect of Duke.  There was some despair as they did not have a point guard.

To make matters worse, Elliot Williams, one of only three eligible scholarship guards (if Casey Peters is counted as a forward), transferred to the Memphis Tigers to be closer to a sick relative.

Scheyer was the main ball-handler in a fluid offense because all three guys were equally good at shooting the three or driving to the hoop. It was hard for any defense to concentrate on just one player.

If they got in trouble, Andre Dawkins was available as he enrolled a year early in Duke's time of need.

That season ended with a championship.

This coming season is just as up in the air as the beginning of the season mentioned above, when Mike Krzyzewski won his fourth championship.

The difference is Duke faithful seem to be pinning all their hopes on a 6’4” scoring prodigy. Austin Rivers deserves all the praise, but he is only one player.  

When Duke goes up against the likes of Ohio State and North Carolina, depending on any one player means it is going to be a very long season.

Remember when Chris Bosh played at Georgia Tech? He was a McDonald's All-American and was arguably as good as expected, but that did not translate into wins for the Yellow Jackets.

Bosh averaged 15.6 points and nine rebounds, but Georgia Tech’s record was 16-15 (7-9 ACC). 

Some may point out that there is a huge difference between a team coached by Paul Hewitt and Mike Krzyzewski, but if you are pinning your hopes on one player, this example shows that no matter how good that player may be, team basketball is what wins games in college.

A year later, that same Georgia Tech nucleus of players were one bum ankle away from winning the NCAA tournament (they made it to the finals, but scoring leader BJ Elder was injured).

Kemba Walker averaged 23.5 points as UConn won their third championship under Jim Calhoun. However, Walker’s high offense was counteracted by UConn’s stellar team defense.

There is nothing wrong with being optimistic about the next season. Just don’t get too blinded by the lights.

Duke should learn a lesson from their neighbours and arch rivals, North Carolina.  Harrison Barnes’ terrible start has been debated to death, but it cannot be ignored.

No doubt he is a talented player, but only when Kendall Marshall was inserted into the starting lineup did that unite, allowing Barnes to succeed.

Just like North Carolina, teams scouting Duke are going to focus on Rivers just as much as they did Barnes in the early stages of his freshman season.

"I think he'll be fine, but there's going to be a period of adjustment," ESPN reported Krzyzewski said about Rivers.

"He's learning how to become a complete player. You can't compare the competition and intensity and organization to playing pickup. Every freshman gets knocked back a little bit and that will happen for Austin and he'll learn what needs to happen and make those adjustments.” 

With that statement, Coach K is warning the faithful that Rivers is not a done deal. It’s a learning process, give him time, no need to anoint him Duke’s saviour.

If Rivers is to flourish, other players will need to step into the limelight and take some heat off him.

Andre Dawkins is more than capable. He is a great shooter and has good size for a guard at 6’4” and is due for a break out season. Seth Curry is a capable scorer. All those "experts" that think Mason Plumlee is an NBA talent can't be wrong.

Rivers is a good player, but he needs to be allowed time to adjust to the college game. Last season, all hope was placed on Kyrie Irving, and a freak accident changed the whole season.

Blindly declaring Rivers the next big thing is only setting yourself up for a bitter disappointment.

Not that Rivers is overrated, but you have been down this road before. It ends with an Eric Maynor jump shot.