Three Blue Devils that have to step up for Duke to have a long March run

Duke is about to embark on its March Madness journey and for that to be a long run, these three Blue Devils need to step up.

Feb 28, 2024; Durham, North Carolina, USA;  Duke Blue Devils forward Mark Mitchell (25) dribbles up
Feb 28, 2024; Durham, North Carolina, USA; Duke Blue Devils forward Mark Mitchell (25) dribbles up / Rob Kinnan-USA TODAY Sports
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Friday, at 7:10 PM EST, Duke basketball begins its NCAA Tournament run. Seeded 4th in the South Region, the Blue Devils will open against No. 13 seed Vermont.

What's great for Duke is that the program has a streak of nine straight first-round wins in the NCAA Tournament. The last time the Blue Devils lost their first game was in 2012 when No. 15 seed Lehigh busted brackets across the nation by stunning the No. 2 seeded Devils 75-70.

This year, Duke fans are hoping to see head coach John Scheyer lead the program deep into March for the first time. Last year, he got the team to the second round by beating No. 12 seed Oral Roberts before falling to No. 4 seed Tennessee in the round of 32.

While Scheyer is far from being on the hot seat, if he wants to start creating his own legacy in Durham and step out of the shadow of his predecessor, Coach K, he needs to make Duke a power broker in March the way the program rightfully should be.

Of course, Scheyer can only do so much from the bench. He's going to need his players to take their game to another level and that is especially true for the following Blue Devils who have to step up this March.

Mark Mitchell needs to be a consistent weapon for Duke

If there could be a breakout star for Duke this March, Mark Mitchell might fit that bill. The 6-foot-8 forward has all the tools needed to dominate in the tournament, but he has to be a consistent option for Scheyer's team.

This year, he has put together five 20-point games including big showings against Wake Forest, Notre Dame, and Syracuse. However, at times, he has come up short against top teams.

For instance, in the season's second game, he scored only nine points and grabbed five rebounds against then No. 12 Arizona. He also had only six points in a loss at Arkansas, four points in a win over a decent Pitt team, and three points in the loss to UNC that closed out the regular season.

For the year, Mitchell averages 12.3 points and 6.3 rebounds per game. While those numbers are solid, it just feels like he's got another gear that he can kick it into at times but that gear isn't always there on a game-by-game basis.

For Duke to have a strong March Madness run, Mitchell might need to string together four or more quality games. But he's had only two instances this year in which he's scored in double figures in four or more games in a row. If he can put a third string of such proficiency together, Duke will be a tough out.


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