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X-Factor: Consistency from Mark Mitchell key for Duke men's basketball in ACC opener

<p>Mark Mitchell showed off his physicality against Ohio State.&nbsp;</p>

Mark Mitchell showed off his physicality against Ohio State. 

Duke men's basketball begins its ACC slate Saturday with a home matchup against Boston College. The Blue Zone brings you a player from both sides that will prove crucial for their squad:

Duke: Mark Mitchell

Starting power forward Mark Mitchell has become a key part of the Duke offense. The Kansas City, Kans., native is averaging 8.9 points per game, ranking third on the team. Although a field goal percentage of 46.3% seems decent for a stretch four of his caliber, the individual metrics tell a more complicated story. Mitchell’s strength thus far has been at the line, where the freshman has made an impressive 78.6% of his foul shots. However, despite averaging 38.9% from three-point territory, Mitchell only hoists an average of two shots per game from beyond the arc. The 19-year-old has also struggled mightily around the basket, making only 33.3% of his layups, per Synergy, low for a player who prides himself on driving to the hole.

Duke’s success seems to be linked to the performance of Mitchell. When Mitchell has thrived, so have the Blue Devils. In his best game in the Phil Knight Legacy, Mitchell scored 16 points on 6-of-11 shooting from the field as Duke outlasted Xavier. Mitchell also posted double digit scoring efforts in games against Jacksonville, USC Upstate and Delaware, all comfortable victories. However, when Mitchell fails to produce, the Blue Devils pay for his struggles. The Sunrise Christian product floundered against Purdue Sunday, finishing the night with two points after going 1-of-6 from the field. Mitchell was also inefficient against Kansas; he finished the night with seven points on 43% shooting and turned the ball over three times. 

Duke begins ACC play against Boston College, who has dropped contests against the likes of Maine and Tarleton. A great night from Mitchell, looking to bounce back after a quieter performance against Ohio State, could make the game a comfortable affair against an Eagles squad struggling with injury.

Boston College: DeMarr Langford

Guard DeMarr Langford Jr. is one of the most talented players in the ACC. The former four-star recruit blossomed last season, averaging 11.3 points per game on 45.6% shooting from the floor. His ability to create off the dribble allowed Boston College to wreak havoc in the 2022 ACC tournament; thanks to his 19-point performance, the Eagles got the best of bubble-team Wake Forest. After flirting with the NBA draft, Langford decided another year honing his craft at Boston College would serve him better. 

So far, the 2022-23 season has not lived up to expectations for Langford. An ankle injury from the offseason lingered into November, causing the 6-foot-5 guard to miss the Eagles' first two games. He then played in three games, averaging seven points on 50% shooting from the field. Just as Langford seemed to get into a rhythm, he caught the flu, and was forced to miss Boston College's win against Wyoming. In his return to the floor Sunday against Rhode Island, Langford scored five points on 33% field goal shooting. 

As the Eagles travels to Durham for a duel with the Blue Devils, Langford will hope to have his official comeback performance on the national stage. He possesses the talent to do so, and has the extra motivation to prove to NBA evaluators he made the right choice staying another year. 


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