Living Up To The Hype

Sometimes a freshman enters the college game with tremendous hype and expectations. Certainly the ACC has seen that phenomenon in recent years. So far this year, Duke's Kyrie Irving has lived up to and exceeded it all.

Hype is a powerful thing.

It causes people to stand in line for hours to watch movies while wearing ridiculous looking glasses, somehow making them forget that pretty much everything on earth is in "3D." It makes people sit through six seasons worth of confusion-ridden, tropical island-infused television with the promise that the finale will answer the universe's greatest questions. Heck, hype can even get someone picked as the preseason National Player of the Year before playing a single minute of college basketball.

More often than not, hype disappoints (I still don't have a clue what that stupid Smoke Monster is, and I've finally stopped caring).

Freshmen stars step on campus with incredibly high expectations in today's college game. If they struggle, fans scratch their heads and wonder when the player they've been watching on Youtube is going to show up. For those players, hype becomes a burden.

But every season, a few touted freshmen live up to, or even exceed, the hype. That's certainly the case with Duke's point guard sensation, Kyrie Irving.

Though he wasn't the most talked about player coming into college basketball, Irving arrived at Duke with lofty expectations.

Media personalities compared him to John Wall and Chris Paul. Major publications and networks listed him as a likely first or second team All-ACC player. Blue Devil fans hailed him as the second coming of Jason Williams, a hallowed name in Durham. How's that for hype?

Amazingly, Irving's performance on the court has already overshadowed the hype that accompanied him to Cameron Indoor, and he's only seven games into his freshman season.

His debut was the best of any freshman point guard during Mike Krzyzewski's tenure at Duke. With 17 points and nine assists, he eclipsed the first impressions set by Johnny Dawkins, Bobby Hurley, Tommy Amaker, and Williams.

His first real test against an elite college player came five games into the season when Duke took on Kansas State in Kansas City.

Matched up against Jacob Pullen in an overwhelmingly pro-Wildcat arena, Irving totally outclassed Kansas State's star. Pullen looked helpless as Irving got into the lane at will, scoring 17 points and dishing out six assists while holding the senior preseason All-American to just four points.

Irving proved that his play against Pullen wasn't a fluke in Duke's last game against sixth-ranked Michigan State and Kalin Lucas, another senior star with a proven track record as one of the best point guards in the nation. Much like Pullen, Lucas didn't have an answer for Irving's talent.

Irving was 8-12 from the field and got to the the free throw line more than Michigan State's entire team thanks to his ability to get into the lane at an alarming rate, connecting on 13 of 16 attempts from the charity stripe. Duke's rising star put up 31 points against Lucas and he made it look easy.

So far, Irving is averaging 24 points, five assists, and 5.5 rebounds against teams ranked in the top 10 while going head-to-head with some of the best senior guards the nation has to offer. He'll get another chance to continue his trend of dominating star point guards when he goes up against Bulter's Shelvin Mack on Saturday.

The college basketball world is taking notice of what Irving is doing on the court.

He's become a staple in conversations about the best freshman in basketball, and experts can't avoid mentioning his name when talking about the best point guards in college regardless of class. Columnists who overlooked Irving prior to the season are even willing to admit the error of their ways. After Irving's performance against Michigan State, CBS's Gary Parrish tweeted, "Did I say Harrison Barnes for POY? I meant Kyrie Irving. Honest mistake."

While the hype surrounding several freshman stars is waning, Irving's is rising at a rapid rate.

His hype isn't coming from the sensational expectations of columnists, and it isn't the result of viral highlight videos.

Instead, Irving's climbing reputation as one of college basketball's elite is coming from where it counts—his stunning and consistent production on the court against some of the best players in the nation.

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