X-Factor: Mitchell will be crucial for Duke men's basketball against Iowa at Jimmy V Classic

Mark Mitchell scored 15 points against Boston College.
Mark Mitchell scored 15 points against Boston College.

Following a successful ACC/Big Ten Challenge at home, the Blue Devils next play at Madison Square Garden for the Jimmy V Classic. Before Duke takes on Iowa Tuesday night, the Blue Zone looks at a player from both teams capable of leading their squad to victory:

Duke: Mark Mitchell

While freshman forward Mark Mitchell may not be the most consistent offensive source for the Blue Devils, with the right combination of both floor time and ball-handling time, he can be Duke's star. That has rang true in performances such as the season-opener against Jacksonville, in which he was steady with the ball and shot from the field at a 50% clip. In nearly every game since, Mitchell has proved that when he has the ball in his grip, he is a difference-maker. His consistency has only gone up since his first performance, as in six of Duke's 10 games, he drained more than 50% of his shots. Most recently, in the Blue Devils' 75-59 victory against Boston College, the Kansas City, Kan., native proved that his talent is alive and well, finishing the night on an impressive 85.7% mark from the field, including two successful treys. While Mitchell has had a few games in which he has struggled, if he performs against Iowa the same way he did against the Eagles, then he will be a key piece to the Blue Devil offense in New York.

Iowa: Kris Murray

Averaging 21 points and 10.6 rebounds per game, forward Kris Murray may be a problem for Duke. The 6-foot-8 junior has scored more than 22 points in four games this season—including two performances at or above 30 points—and undoubtedly, he is looking to add a fifth. Against Iowa's two ACC opponents so far, Murray put up numbers fit for a pro—with a 10-point, 12-rebound performance against Clemson Nov. 25, before an exceptional 31-point, 20-rebound, two-block parade against Georgia Tech Nov. 29. Working in the Blue Devils' favor is the fact that Murray has had inconsistent shooting days this season, like the Hawkeyes' sole loss against TCU Nov. 26, in which he shot 4-for-14. If the Cedar Rapids, Iowa, native plays anything like he has in his top performances this season, Duke's main focus must be on preventing him getting the ball, as he is a threat from beyond the arc as well. Against Georgia Tech, Murray added four triples to the score, and that was hardly the first time this year he has had good accuracy from beyond. If the Blue Devils can limit Murray, then they will be in good shape to take home the win.


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