Duke basketball trying to understand March Madness struggles from key contributors

The Blue Devils needed more from two of its sophomores in the NCAA Tournament

Southern Indiana v Duke; Duke basketball forward Mark Mitchell and guard Tyrese Proctor
Southern Indiana v Duke; Duke basketball forward Mark Mitchell and guard Tyrese Proctor / Lance King/GettyImages

The Duke basketball team fell short of its preseason expectations this season with an Elite 8 loss to NC State during the NCAA Tournament.

It was a strange ride for the Blue Devils this season as they had to navigate injuries, strategic issues, and questions about its hustle all year but things finally started to round into form once it became a do-or-die situaton.

Duke defated No. 11 seed Vermont and No. 12 seed James Madison in the opening rounds of the tournament before being the benefactor of an injury when No. 1 seed Houston lost starting guard Jamal Shed in the first half of the Blue Devils' Sweet 16 victory.

However, many of the same issues that plagued the team this season reared its ugly head against the Wolfpack with a Final Four on the line. There were inconsistencies, questionable coaching decisions, and a slow step to loose balls.

It resulted in the Blue Devils being sent back to Durham with no more games to be played this season, wondering what went wrong.

Two of the biggest questions that Jon Scheyer must figure out is why did Mark Mitchell and Tyrese Proctor not live up to its expectations.

For Mitchell, he was sometimes unplayable with his lack of offensive versatility and the way teams defended him. Very few opponents respected his jump shot, specifically his inability to make 3-pointers.

The sophomore was just 1-of-22 from 3-point range from the start of the season until January 2, but finished the season making 10-of-18 shots from distance, but was still hesitant to pull the trigger.

In the final three games of the NCAA Tournament, Duke would roll with Ryan Young more often because of the tenacity he played with. Mitchell averaged 3.3 points per contest after scoring 15 points in the tournament opener. He shot a combined 4-of-13 in those games.

Granted, he was playing out of position from his freshman season when he logged more minutes at small forward and had to play power forward this season with no true center on the roster. Still, more was expected of Mark Mitchell during his second season at Duke.

Now, the attention turns to him again for a decision on his future. Will he return for a junior season despite a talented group of freshmen forward entering Duke, opt to try and begin a professional career, or transfer? We will know the answer shortly.

As for Tyrese Proctor, he had the worst game of his career at the worst possible time. He went scoreless in Duke's loss to NC State, missing all nine shots, five of which came from 3-point range.

It was the fourth time he was scoreless in a game this season, although two of those games (Georgia Tech and Wake Forest) he was injured in. He only had one such game during his freshman season and it came in the first month of his college career.

However, there still wasn't as significant of a sophomore jump that many people expected from the Australian. When he announced he was returning to Duke for his sophomore season, many NBA Draft experts thought he would be a potential lottery selection.

His scoring averaged increased by a point and his shooting percentages rose marginally.

It would make the most sense for him to return to Duke for his junior season and be the point guard for a team that needs veteran leadership in the backcourt.

Tough decisions are looming in Durham after the initial sting and shock of the season being over subsides. Jon Scheyer has a very important offseason on his hands, looking to build a quality team around Cooper Flagg, the No. 1 recruit in the country.