Duke Basketball: UNC Loss Will Benefit Freshman Austin Rivers in Tournament

Scott Semmler@@ScottSemmler22Analyst IIMarch 4, 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

Austin Rivers and the Duke Blue Devils were exposed on national television on their home court Saturday night, but it might be the shot in the arm this team needs to make a real push in the NCAA Tournament.

Rivers had 15 points and three assists, just about his average for the year, but there seemed to be more he could do in a big game like this with the ACC regular season title on the line.

Rivers' four turnovers were also a problem for the Blue Devils, as North Carolina had him pegged from the very beginning as the player the Duke offense goes through first.  The Tar Heels took that away from them on Saturday night.

However, Rivers just seems like a player destined for the NBA and, more importantly, a player that can rise above the UNC failure and play well in March Madness.

His big shot against the Tar Heels in February was a clear indication of that.  And, in a month when big shots are aplenty, Rivers may be expected to land a few in the NCAA Tournament.

It's rarity to expect that sort of production out of a freshman, but Rivers' ceiling is as high as it gets for a freshman in college basketball right now.  He is mature, has great court awareness and his playmaking skills are coming along.

Adding the experience of an NCAA Tournament to his mindset is all that is left.

The loss at home against the Tar Heels is simply a bump in the road for the Blue Devils and, most notably, Rivers.  The freshman seems to have the confidence to keep this defeat behind him to carry his great first year into March Madness, where his game should shine the brightest. 

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