An early look at the 2018-19 Syracuse basketball team

Oshae Brissett Notre Dame
Oshae Brissett shoots in the first half of Syracuse's game against Notre Dame. MANDATORY PHOTO CREDIT: Kicia Sears, The Juice Online.

With the basketball offseason officially underway, here’s a quick look at the 2018-19 Syracuse basketball team:

WHO’S OUT: Syracuse had no scholarship seniors this year, so the Orange could return its entire seven man roster for next season. That said, there are still some question marks as to who returns.

  • Tyus Battle: Battle was SU’s leading scorer at 19.2 points, the highest average since Hakim Warrick (21.4) in the 2005 season. Battle is projected on most mock drafts as a second rounder, though Syracuse’s Sweet 16 run may have been enough to vault him into the first round. Either way, expect Battle to declare to get his NBA draft workout before making a final decision.
  • Oshae Brissett: Brissett enjoyed a standout freshman season, averaging 14.9 points and 8.8 rebounds. He’s listed in mock drafts in 2019, and figures to return given that he shot just 35.4 percent from the field and 33.1 percent from downtown. But the NBA upside is certainly there, and teams draft based on upside rather than the finished product before them.
  • Matt Moyer: Moyer may be the odd man out of a front line rotation that will be deeper next season with the addition of a McDonald’s All-American (more on that below) and the emergence of Marek Dolezaj. Still, Moyer has already taken a redshirt season, and he would have to sit out another year if he transferred.

» Related: Duke moves on to Elite 8 as Syracuse runs out of gas

WHO’S IN:

  • Darius Bazley: Syracuse fans are giddy over the upcoming arrival of Bazley to Syracuse, and as well they should be. Bazley is the typical wing for the Boeheim system, 6’8” with a wingspan of 6’11”. Even as a forward, Bazley has exceptional ball handling skills and can finish at the rim. Assuming Brissett decides to return for his sophomore year, the Syracuse front court will have a tremendous rebounding edge with Bazley, Brissett and Chukwu. Still, Syracuse fans should also take pause because Bazley is hardly a finished product and will need to grow into his frame. Bazley is ranked in the top 10 of his class by most recruiting sites for a reason and is the highest ranked recruit for SU since Chris McCullough and Tyler Ennis. Orange fans will get their first glimpse of the prep star on Wednesday at the McDonalds All-American game.
  • Jalen Carey: If Tyus Battle decides to leave school for the NBA, Jalen Carey may start along side Howard next year. With his smooth stroke and great speed, the Orange will once again be a threat in their transition offense. Carey, however, is not a natural point guard, and was forced into that position this year because of injuries to his high school teammate. It is unclear whether Boeheim gives him the starting point guard role or keep Howard in that spot. Either way, his ability to find open team mates will be a welcome sign for all the scorers on the team. Carey will play in the Jordan Brand Classic alongside Bazley on April 8.
  • Buddy Boheim: Boeheim has been recognized for his performance this year, as well. The New England Prep School Basketball named Boeheim Second Team All Class AAA. Among the other honorees were several high profile recruits including Isaiah Mucius (Wake Forest), Miles Norris (Oregon), Nate Laszewski (Notre Dame), Derrick Culver (West Virginia) and Noah Kirkwood (Harvard). Fairly elite company for a coach’s son who was not heavily recruited early in his career.

WHO MAY BE IN:

Syracuse still has a scholarship available in its 2018 class. The Orange can just put the scholarship aside, or they could be in the market for a project center like New Jersey prospect Majur Majak. The 7-1 center doesn’t have an offer from from SU yet.

The Orange could also explore the graduate transfer market, but has Geno Thorpe’s failed experiment soured SU?

WHO’S BACK:

We’ve already mentioned Moyer, Brissett and Battle above, so let’s chat about the remaining four players.

  • Frank Howard: Howard was one of the ACC’s most improved players, with his minutes (16.2 to 38.4), points (4.5 to 14.4) and assists (3.6 to 4.7) all seeing dramatic rises. Still, turnovers were an issue for the junior guard, with him averaging 3.4 a game.
  • Marek Dolezaj: He ended up finishing with averages of 5.8 points and 4.8 rebounds per game, but Dolezaj really found his offensive rhythm in the final seven games of the season. During that stretch, he averaged 10.7 ppg, which bodes well for him being a major contributor as a sophomore.
  • Paschal Chukwu: The tallest player in Syracuse history led the Orange with 2.5 blocks per game and dramatically improved his free throw shooting later in the season. His game is still limited offensively, and he’ll need to improve his ability to catch passes and finish around the basket.
  • Bourama Sidibe: Sidibe struggled through a knee and ankle injury, but still managed to show flashes of his offensive ability in limited minutes.

EARLY MVP: If Battle returns, he’ll be Syracuse’s go-to player in an offense that will be more potent and diversified. If not, Brissett showed he was capable of scoring inside and out, and will have a summer of bulking up.

EARLY MIP: Sidibe was limited due to injury, and if he’s healthy, he’ll play a much larger role in Syracuse’s rotation next season.

EARLY DARK HORSE: Dolezaj didn’t look for his shot for the majority of the season, but his team-high 17 points against TCU in the Round of 64 shows that he has the capability of being a top offensive option for the Orange. At a spindly 180 pounds, Dolezaj has plenty of work to do in the weight room, but with a developing jumper and a high basketball IQ, he’s our pick for the early dark horse.

BURNING QUESTIONS:

  1. What is Syracuse getting out of Elijah Hughes? The coaching staff has been raving about Hughes, who redshirted for a year after his transfer from East Carolina. If Battle in fact leaves for the pros, Hughes can be a player to replace Battle’s production.
  2. Will Sidibe be healthy? He missed chunks of the season with a balky knee, but if he can be healthy heading into his sophomore year, he can form a formidable duo inside with Chukwu.
  3. Who will start? If Battle returns, the starting lineup should be the same with the exception of Bazley, who may start over Dolezaj. If Battle leaves, does Carey take the other guard spot? Does Hughes?
  4. What role will Buddy Boeheim play? If Battle returns, there will be a huge log jam in the backcourt, and the elder Boeheim may have issues finding playing time for his son. Then again, Buddy is a top-flight shooter, which is a skill that next year’s team will lack.
  5. Is Bazley the real deal? Bazley, the No. 8 recruit in his class according to 247 Sports, is SU’s highest recruit since Donte Green (No. 7 in the class of 2007). If he’s as good as the hype, Syracuse can be an upper echelon ACC team.

Saugat Sen contributed to this article.

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Wes Cheng
About Wes Cheng 2291 Articles
Wes has worked for Rivals.com covering the New York Knicks, as well as for Scout.com covering Syracuse athletics. Wes has also worked for the South China Morning Post (Hong Kong) and reported on the NBA and MLB for the New York Sportscene. A native of Long Island, New York, Wes graduated from Syracuse University in 2005. Follow him on Twitter @ChengWes.