Thursday, November 24, 2011
Updated: November 25, 10:31 AM ET
The Hype Machine: Believe it or not?
By Myron Medcalf
The Hype Machine doesn't take holiday breaks.
So it will have to take a plate to go this year as we discuss the current buzz on the national college basketball scene. Chew on this:
• Austin Rivers is overrated
DON'T BELIEVE THE HYPE: He's the son of a former NBA point guard turned head coach. He was a top-3 prospect in his class on Recruiting Nation's ESPNU 100. Game-changer. One-and-done. Immediate star.
All of these assumptions preceded the start of his collegiate career because we're obsessed with projections. Rivers was one of the most highly anticipated additions in Duke history. So his early ups and downs have attracted doubters.
While 14.4 ppg would be adequate for most freshmen, the fine print shows that Rivers has had issues where he was expected to make an immediate impact: off-the-dribble playmaking and penetration. Through his first five games, he was 51st -- in the ACC -- in John Hollinger's player efficiency rankings (16.49). He committed 15 turnovers during that stretch.
But it's too early to attach the "overrated" tag since he's producing, despite his inefficiency. And he's coming after Kyrie Irving, who was arguably the best player in the country before a foot injury disrupted his freshman season. So few will accept a "give him time" mantra from Rivers' supporters, adding more pressure to the situation.
It's a different deal for Rivers, though. Irving joined a squad that featured two key players, Nolan Smith and Kyle Singler, who helped Duke win a national championship in 2010. Rivers is part of a brand new core for the Blue Devils. Andre Dawkins, Seth Curry and Rivers need time to develop chemistry.
They're all making adjustments. That's why the erratic Rivers, who was 5-of-21 from the 3-point line and committed 13 turnovers during four summer exhibitions in Asia, looked like a more relaxed player in Duke's win over Michigan on Tuesday and then followed it up with a so-so performance a day later in the title game. He had 20 points, four rebounds and three assists against the Wolverines, but didn't shoot very well against Kansas and recorded zero assists in 27 minutes, remaining on the bench in crunch time of a tight game.
Look, I watched Harrison Barnes miss every shot he took in a surprising loss to Minnesota in the Puerto Rico Tip-Off around this time last year. The kid was 0-for-12. Panic ensued.
Anybody worried about Barnes these days?
That's why I can't call Rivers overrated at this juncture of the season. In time, he could become who we thought he'd be from the beginning.
• Syracuse players will maintain their focus, despite the Bernie Fine situation
BELIEVE THE HYPE: In their first game after assistant Bernie Fine was accused of molesting a pair of former ball boys, Syracuse's players offered responses that seemed rehearsed. They were prepared for the postgame media barrage.
The Fine situation is ongoing. Players will continue to field questions about the ordeal.
|Through seven games as a Blue Devil, Austin Rivers has more turnovers than assists.|
But with veteran leaders such as Scoop Jardine in the locker room, the Orange should maintain their focus. They're following the lead of Jim Boeheim, who has offered a consistent and strong stance in his defense of Fine.
The latter could haunt the program in the future. But it's far too early to tell. Right now, Syracuse's players are moving forward.
They have legitimate Big East and national title aspirations. So they have to maintain the level of determination to get there, even as they face queries about their assistant coach's situation.
In the early stages of this situation, they're at ease. That's a good sign for the program's fans and supporters.
• Michigan won't miss Darius Morris
BELIEVE THE HYPE: First, let me wipe the egg off my face. I doubted the Wolverines and their ability to excel this season without NBA-bound point guard Darius Morris. But freshman point guard Trey Burke is a stud.
On the biggest stage of his career thus far, Burke recorded 17 points and nine assists against sixth-ranked Duke in the Maui Invitational on Tuesday. He had 14 points and four assists in Monday's victory over eighth-ranked Memphis, and added five more assists in a blowout of UCLA on Wednesday.
He seized the opportunity to prove himself against a pair of nationally ranked teams. With Morris gone, the Wolverines need a floor leader with that aggressive attitude. And Burke has it. John Beilein won't have to motivate him -- he's ready to go from tipoff. And he already has good chemistry with Tim Hardaway Jr.
Morris meant a lot to the program. But Burke is quite the replacement.
|The Cuse players have carried on despite the absence of longtime assistant Bernie Fine.|
Myron Medcalf covers college basketball for ESPN.com. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter: @MedcalfbyESPN