CHAPEL HILL, N.C. -- Greg Paulus cannot do a lot of things other people can do.
He cannot run like Ty Lawson. Or jump like Derrick Rose. Or see the court like D.J. Augustin. Or lock down an opponent like Darren Collison. And I could spend a long while writing about what Paulus can't do, but hasn't that been done enough already?
|Take Greg Paulus for what he is, a key piece of a talented Duke squad. (Getty Images)|
"Comparisons will be made," Paulus said. "But if you stay true to yourself and don't try to be something you're not then everything will take care of itself."
Duke entered the Dean Dome with doubters Wednesday night and exited with an 89-78 victory against North Carolina that should finally convince everybody the Blue Devils are the favorites in the ACC.
Despite not being quick enough on the perimeter or big enough on the interior -- those were the thoughts in the preseason, weren't they? -- the Blue Devils will head into their game against Boston College on Saturday with a 20-1 record and a two-game lead in the league standings, and among the reasons is that Paulus character everyone (except Duke fans) loves to hate.
No, he's not up for All-America honors.
Probably won't make all-conference either.
But Paulus is a key component on this team, a veteran part that makes things work. And the wild thing is that while he's generally despised by opposing fans, he's really everything we claim we want our sports figures to be. He plays hard and plays hurt. He maximizes his ability, claps his hands and cares. He laughs when things are great. He cries when things are bad. He doesn't get arrested at clubs or suspended for missing workouts. He loves representing Duke while performing for his coach, and you get the sense there is nothing he'd rather do than play college basketball forever and ever and ever.
So why am I writing this column now?
Because it occurred to me while watching Paulus make six of eight 3-pointers to finish with 18 points against North Carolina that the outside expectations on him have always been unfair, and that the second I typed any kind words about the former two-sport star I would get a dozen e-mails explaining how he's overrated and an arrogant little prick.
That's what Paulus can do to your inbox, case you didn't know. He's a polarizing figure. And if the past year has taught me anything it's that when I write something unpleasant about him Duke fans will defend him, and when I write something nice about him everybody else's fans will criticize the point while calling me stupid and insisting Paulus isn't one of the top players in the nation.
But guess what?