Mike Krzyzewski is to the bracket-picking public what Keyser Söze was to interrogators in The Usual Suspects: The greatest trick the Duke coach ever pulled was convincing the world Kyrie Irving couldn't play.
Forget the First Four, the big news of the night is now Irving and the real possibility he puts on a Duke uniform some time in the next five days. Krzyzewski said at a Duke news conference Tuesday night that Irving had "a chance" at playing in Duke's second round game Friday afternoon.
Irving has tweeted that nothing is set it toe -- ahem, stone -- about him playing Friday in Charlotte against No. 16 Hampton.
In case you're late to the 2010-11 college hoops party, Irving is considered one of the most valuable players in the game. With him, Duke was certainly a different team. A superior one. One many considered the runaway favorite until he injured his toe in the Devils' game against Butler in mid-December.
Then Ohio State didn't lose until mid-January, Jared Sullinger became a beast and Jimmer blew up the sport. Since then, Duke's been a bit of an afterthought. The thinking, for most, was that Irving was highly unlikely to play again this season because Duke claimed all along it wouldn't chance Irving hurting the toe again, lest he damage his draft stock; Irving is a consensus top-five pick.
If Irving plays, it's a completely different deal here, this whole bracket. If Irving can play, he should. If Irving is healthy, hallelujah, the stakes have been raise. His presence turns the NCAA tournament on its ear, as Duke would immediately be put in Kansas and Ohio State's class re: title-winning odds. Even Jay Bilas is rethinking his picks at the moment.
And, man, would things get really exciting really quickly. I don't have Duke in my Final Four at the moment. I don't even have it in the Elite Eight. With Irving, I have to pump-fake on that notion. And you should, too. What we saw from Irving in the first five weeks of the season was serious, NBA-ready ability. For the betterment of Duke and raised interest in the tournament Irving needs to play if he can. The more NBA-caliber players in The Dance, the better.
I've never been so happy to be hoodwinked.
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