Roster analysis — 2018 Syracuse Basketball preview

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Marek Dolezaj goes up for a shot during the first half of Syracuse's 51-49 loss to Notre Dame. MANDATORY PHOTO CREDIT: Kicia Sears, The Juice Online.

Junior guard Tyus Battle will be the lead threat for SU. Battle boosted his scoring by almost eight points per game as a sophomore, finishing with a team-high 19.2 points per contest. Battle topped 25 points eight times last season, including 34 points against Wake Forest and 37 against Florida State in double overtime. While his field goal shooting slid to a hair under 40 percent and his three-point shooting sunk to 32.2 percent, part of that is a function of how Battle was often a last resort. A large number of Battle’s field goal attempts came late in the shot clock as someone simply needed to get a shot up for the Orange. A better testament to Battle’s shooting stroke is that his free throw percentage rose to just under 84 percent in 199 attempts. The hope is that better offensive balance on the team allows Battle to be more efficient and effective while reducing his workload from last season’s 39 minutes per game, the most in the NCAA.

Senior Frank Howard will join Battle on the top line of the Syracuse 2-3 zone once more. Howard improved multiple facets of his offensive game last season, but is still not a finished product. Howard’s shooting marks have improved each of his three years on campus, including hitting 37.5 percent from deep in the first half of the campaign before settling at 32.7 percent overall for the season. Turnovers remain a problem for Howard, as he committed 3.4 miscues per game, leading to a mediocre 1.39-to-1 assist-to-turnover ratio despite handing out 175 assists last season. Howard is a crafty defender and deploys his long arms well, as evidenced by his ACC-leading 68 steals. A leg injury has slowed Howard in camp and it is hoped, but unknown if, he will be ready for the season tip.

Howard Washington’s freshman season would have been graded as an incomplete, as he only logged 110 minutes prior to suffering a season-ending torn ACL. Washington continues to rehab and is hopeful that he will play this season, but his availability will be made clearer as the season nears. In his limited minutes last campaign, Washington showed to be more of a steady point guard than a flashy one.

With the status of Howard and Washington uncertain for the start of the season, 6’3” combo guard Jalen Carey looks to be the beneficiary… if he can return to health. Carey suffered a sprained ankle in Syracuse’s Orange vs. White scrimmage on October 12, but is not expected to miss significant time. A consensus top-100 recruit last season, Carey was Second Team All-State in New Jersey and selected to play in the Jordan Brand Classic. Carey sports an effective driving ability combined with strong athleticism, but needs to improve an inconsistent jump shot.

» Related: 2017 Recap, 2018 Outlook

Buddy Boeheim, a 6’5” shooting guard, joins the program after finishing his high school career at Brewster Academy after playing locally at Jamesville-Dewitt. The son of the head coach, Boeheim earned Second Team All-New England Prep School Athletic Council honors last season after cracking 20 points a half dozen times on a team featuring nine Division I recruits. Boeheim’s top skill is his perimeter shooting, as evidenced by his three triples in the first exhibition game, and may earn him some minutes off the bench this season.

Oshae Brissett started every game as a freshman and posted an impressive stat line, averaging 14.9 points and 8.8 rebounds a game, racking up 13 double-doubles along the way. At 6’8” and 210 pounds, Brissett encountered some struggles with bulkier, stronger players, particularly in ACC play, and some added strength should help him finish better inside and give a boost to his 35.4 percent field goal shooting range mark. While his frame may have hurt his ability to finish in traffic, Brissett did show a solid shooting ability from deep (33.1 percent on three-pointers) and from the line (78.7 percent on free throws), including setting a school record by making all 16 free throws he shot against Buffalo.

The other skinny sophomore forward, Marek Dolezaj, will man the other starting spot this season. Dolezaj, who started the final 17 games last season, seemed to develop as the season went on and his minutes increased. More a glue guy than anything else, Dolezaj averaged 8.9 points and 4.7 rebounds in just over 34 minutes as a starter. The native of Slovakia showed a strong knowledge of the game with his passing ability, defensive awareness, and shot selection, leading to him hitting just under 54 percent from the field. His confidence grew late in the season as Dolezaj became more assertive in the offense, leading to hopes he will contribute even more this season.

Elijah Hughes will be in the mix after sitting out as a transfer last season. As a freshman at East Carolina, Hughes averaged 7.8 points in just over 20 minutes per game. During the year off, Hughes has improved his perimeter shot (only 27.3 percent shooting on threes at ECU) and is expected to be a source of bench scoring with the Orange. At 6’6”, Hughes is slotted to be a reserve forward this season, but could also play some guard, if necessary.

Freshman Robert Braswell is the fourth forward on the team and will likely have a hard time seeing minutes. At 6’9” and 184 pounds with a seven-foot wingspan, Braswell offers a tantalizing athletic package, as evidenced by his two state titles in the high jump in South Carolina. Braswell scored double digits in each of his final two seasons of high school, helping his team to consecutive final four appearances in the state tournament.

After missing most of the previous season due to an eye injury, Paschal Chukwu started every game last season and paced the Orange with 91 blocks. The 7’2” center also finished second on the team with 6.8 rebounds per game, carding double-digit boards nine times, including 16 against Virginia. While still needing some polish to his offensive game, Chukwu shot 65.5 percent from the field and 63.2 percent from the line. That free throw accuracy mark is a little deceiving, as Chukwu had a slow start to the year, but finished the season by making 70 percent from the line over the final three months, including a month-long stretch where he hit 83 percent at the stripe.

Bourama Sidibe spent some time last season battling through knee soreness, but still played in 30 games as a freshman. While his knee injury led to decreased minutes as the season wore on, Sidibe still had some productive moments. Most notably, Sidibe came off the bench to post season highs of 18 points, 16 rebounds, and three blocks at Pittsburgh, helping the team pull out a road win when the rest of the offense was stuck in neutral. Sidibe is still limited on offense, but shot nearly 60 percent from the field, mostly near the bucket, as Chukwu does.

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Jim Stechschulte
About Jim Stechschulte 511 Articles
A 1996 graduate of Syracuse University, Jim has reported on Syracuse sports for the Syracuse University Alumni Club of Southern California on nearly a decade, where he currently resides. He has also written a fantasy basketball column published by NBA.com. Follow him on Twitter @DSafetyGuy.