Paulus Is Key For Duke

Greg Paulus may, in fact, be the most valuable player on a loaded Duke roster in 2006 says Jeff Goodman.

As Greg Paulus goes, so do the Duke Blue Devils.

That's why Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski is breathing a major sigh of relief after it was determined that his sophomore point guard won't need surgery for a broken left foot suffered on the second day of practice.

There's no question that Josh McRoberts is the most talented player on the team. Gerald Henderson Jr., an athletic freshman wing, has a better shot of earning a paycheck in the NBA than Paulus. Ditto for 7-foot frosh Brian Zoubek.

However, Paulus not only brings leadership and all the intangibles to the table. He's also the only floor leader on the entire roster.

Duke would have been done without Paulus. Forget about a national title or an ACC crown. The bigger concern for Coach K would have been how to beat the likes of N.C. State, Miami and Clemson. It might have been 1994 all over again when the Blue Devils finished 13-18 and Krzyzewski left the team due to a back injury midway through the season.

Without Paulus, the task of running the team would have fallen on the shoulders of DeMarcus Nelson, Jon Scheyer or Martynas Pocius.

That's not a pretty thought since none of which are point guards.

Paulus, who will take the throne of the most hated player in the league now that J.J. Redick is in the NBA, has his share of critics.

"He can't guard anyone," one ACC assistant coach said.

``He's overrated," another added.

However, Coach K's club wouldn't be in the top half of the ACC without Paulus.

He led the ACC (the best conference in America) in assists (5.2 apg) his freshman campaign. His outside shot may have been inconsistent and he averaged just 6.7 points per game, but part of it can be attributed to the fact that he played with an injured wrist for much of the season.

Or it may have been that Paulus' primary job was to keep Redick and Shelden Williams happy.

Paulus, who started 33 games last year, had surgery to remove a bone chip in his left wrist in March and was preparing for a season in which he was set to prove Duke wouldn't take a tumble despite losing two of the best ever to don a Blue Devils uniform – Redick and Williams.

Paulus is hoping to be back for the season-opener on Nov. 12 at home against Columbia. Even if misses the team's first three games against Columbia, either Georgia Southern or UC-Davis and UNC-Greensboro, the Blue Devils will likely start with a trio of victories.

That would give Paulus nearly five weeks to get back to full strength.

Paulus isn't the only point guard who has the Final Four hopes resting squarely on his shoulders.

Three other programs that have a chance of getting to the Georgia Dome in April don't have backup floor leaders, either.

1) UCLA – Darren Collison takes over for Jordan Farmar, who left early for the NBA. Currently, the backup Mustafa Abdul-Hamid – a freshman walk-on.

2) Georgia Tech – Paul Hewitt finally has his guy in the fold, Javaris Crittenton. However, now that Zam Fredrick has transferred out, there is virtually no one behind his highly-touted freshman point guard.

3) Boston College – Louis Hinnant has graduated, leaving Al Skinner & Co. with one point guard on the roster: Tyrese Rice. If Rice goes down, so do the Eagles.