Season Preview: Syracuse
Last Season: 19-15, NIT 2nd Round
Key Losses: Andrew White III, Tyler Lydon, John Gillon, Taurean Thompson
Key Additions: Oshae Brissett, Bourama Sidibe, Howard Washington
Last year, the Syracuse Orange were extremely inconsistent in ACC play, to say the least. Coach Jim Boeheim certainly didn’t have his most talented team, but they showed how good they can be at times. The Orange had home upset victories over Virginia, Florida State, and Duke, but the issue was that they could not string together solid performances. Despite having a rather experienced group, the ‘Cuse were just 2-8 away from the Carrier Dome. They were 17-4 at home, and that Duke win late in the season gave them a shot at an NCAA Tournament appearance, but a first round exit in the ACC Tournament against Miami put an end to that. The Orange then went 1-1 in the NIT, which ended a frustrating 2016-17 season.
Now, the focus in Syracuse is on this coming season, but the Orange lose a number of key contributors from last year’s team. The starting backcourt, John Gillon and Andrew White III, have graduated, and forward Tyler Lydon was a first round pick in this past NBA Draft. In fact, Tyus Battle is the only player returning from last season whom averaged double digits in scoring. The Cuse lose some big players, and the recruiting class coming in is, well, just okay. Oshae Brissett, Bourama Sidibe, and Howard Washington are all four-star recruits, but none are expected to play a major role in 2017-18. That being said, Battle, along with junior guard Frank Howard return, and both should be starters for Syracuse next season.
Battle is coming off an impressive freshman season for the Orange, in which he scored in double figures in five consecutive games on two separate occasions. He also scored a career-high 23 points in an upset over Virginia, and did so on 7-11 shooting. Battle can be a complete scorer, and a big piece for the ‘Cuse this coming season, but needs to be more aggressive on the offensive end. Also, Frank Howard, Battle’s partner atop that Boeheim 2-3 zone, will need to step up if Syracuse is to have success next season. Howard came out of high school as a shooting guard, but has become a point guard under Boeheim, and needs to provide stability to that position that the Orange haven’t had since Tyler Ennis left. Howard has made a number of mind-boggling mistakes in his first two seasons for Syracuse, but if he can clean that up, him and Battle make for a perfect backcourt for Coach Boeheim.
Syracuse doesn’t have the frontline depth they’ve had in previous years, but if Battle can Howard can lead the way offensively, and this group rebounds well enough, Coach Boeheim has another tournament team. They’ll have to navigate a tough conference, but this team has the potential to make some noise in the ACC. If they do, Syracuse has always been rather successful in March, and expect that to stay the same. Getting out of the first weekend of the NCAA Tournament is a stretch, but the Orange should be able to win their opener, if nothing else.
Projected Starting Lineup
PG: Frank Howard
SG: Tyus Battle
SF: Oshae Brissett
PF: Matthew Moyer
C: Paschal Chukwu