X-Factor: Mark Mitchell's defense and efficient scoring key for No. 8 Duke men's basketball against Miami

Mark Mitchell skies for a finish against Notre Dame.
Mark Mitchell skies for a finish against Notre Dame.

After taking down Florida State Saturday, Duke will face Miami in a critical road test. The Blue Zone brings you a key player from each side:

Duke: Mark Mitchell

The Blue Devils this season might be best known for their strong backcourt play, but their frontcourt is nothing to sleep on, either. Sophomore center Kyle Filipowski currently averages 17 points and 8.3 rebounds per game, while Sean Stewart and Ryan Young have provided sparks off the bench on both ends of the court. However, one of Duke’s bigs has consistently provided a strong impact regardless of matchup — sophomore forward Mark Mitchell.

Since the new year, Mitchell has played strong and efficient basketball, averaging 14.5 rebounds and 7.7 rebounds on 62.6% shooting from the floor. Additionally, the sophomore has knocked down six of his last 11 3-point shots despite season-long concerns about his unusual shooting form, showing he can occasionally produce behind the arc. The Kansas City, Kan., native sometimes disappears on offense — he only scored seven points in Duke’s matchup against Florida State last Saturday — but his defense has been unwavering. According to CBB Analytics, Duke allows 7.8 points per 100 possessions fewer when Mitchell is on the court. His height and athleticism make him capable of defending any player, regardless of position, which has contributed to the Blue Devils ranking highly in many defensive statistics in the ACC.

Last season, the then-freshman combined for seven points on 3-of-12 shooting in two games against the Hurricanes, but in their ACC tournament rematch, he was much better, scoring 14 points and adding five rebounds. For Wednesday’s game, the Blue Devils will hope their star forward can produce an outing like the one he had last March to push their win streak to five.

Miami: Norchad Omier

For fourth-year junior Norchad Omier, Wednesday’s game isn’t just a chance to earn a conference win at home — it’s an opportunity for revenge. Last March in Greensboro, N.C., Omier played just 66 seconds of Miami’s ACC tournament matchup against Duke before exiting with an ankle injury. The Hurricanes painfully felt their forward’s absence, as they were outrebounded by a 36 to 24 margin in the 85-78 loss.

Despite Miami’s slide into the middle-to-bottom tier of the conference this season, Omier has elevated his game to become one of the ACC’s best players. The Bluefields, Nicaragua, native averages 17.8 points and 9.8 rebounds on an outstanding 60.3% clip from the field. He is an effective rebounder who has also shown up on defense, as he blocked three shots in the Hurricanes’ close loss to North Carolina Feb. 10.

Miami is currently on a four-game losing streak, which includes a loss to Virginia Feb. 5 where the Hurricanes scored just 38 points, the lowest total in the Jim Larrañaga era. However, Miami sports a 11-3 record at home this season, and Duke has not won in Coral Gables, Fla., since January 2020. As such, Omier will look to continue their home-court advantage over the Blue Devils with a dominant performance of his own.


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