Kyrie Irving could play in the 2011 NCAA Tournament after missing Duke's entire ACC season with a broken toe. Irving warmed up for Duke's final two ACC Tournament games but remained out; Blue Devils coach Mike Krzyzewski added some dynamite to March Madness on Tuesday by announcing Irving could play in the tourney. Given that Irving has been the apple of many NBA fans' eyes despite wearing a walking boot the last couple months, and given that DraftExpress still has the point guard at No. 1 on its top 100 prospects list, Duke has our attention in the tournament.
Duke, of course, is just fine without Irving. Despite losing the ACC regular season title to North Carolina, Duke is a No. 1 seed, the ACC Tournament champion and a popular pick for the national title. You'll understand why: Most of Duke's 2010 National Championship team returned, with Nolan Smith and Kyle Singler leading the way. Irving's almost gravy. But he's a very, very good, delicious and wonderful gravy. Sausage gravy.
In a league that has experienced a powerful coup d'etat by point guards over the past few seasons, the NBA is perfect for Irving. Kyrie is fast, strong, agile and a wizard with the ball. He's not quite as athletic as John Wall or Derrick Rose, and not as powerful as Tyreke Evans. But he has a combination of near-elite traits and incredible skill level given his age, and despite the long layoff, no one forgets how wonderful a player he is.
Given his lofty status -- you don't hit No. 1 on DraftExpress and stay there for months unless you really do have a high likelihood of going that early; the excellent Chad Ford predicts drafts exceptionally well, but always seems to have more turnover at the top -- Irving simply can't stay at Duke beyond this season. Duke fans will maintain that Coach K doesn't recruit one-and-done players, and that Irving has unfinished business. But $10 million guaranteed and the keys to a pro franchise is real talk, and Duke doesn't lose killer freshman often because Duke often does not have freshman this highly rated. (When it does, like Luol Deng for example, they leave. Duke is not particularly special in this regard.)
If Irving had been in action all along, every Duke game in the tournament would still be must-watch for fans of bad NBA teams in need of a point guard. That we've been unable to enjoy his performance for so long only boosts the potential interest. If he plays, you'll want to tune in.
WHO: Kyrie Irving, guard, Duke. 6'2, 185 pounds. Scoring point guard.
WHEN: Friday, March 18 at 3:10 PM Eastern, Duke vs. Hampton, truTV
PAY SPECIAL ATTENTION: Fans of the Kings, Cavaliers, Wolves (sorry, Ricky and Jonny) and Raptors.
MARVEL COMICS COMPARISON: Nightcrawler with handle.
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