I’ve decided to save myself the embarrassment of making predictions for the Syracuse basketball team this season. Much like Frank Howard last year, I miss more than I connect, including being fooled by Tyler Roberson’s potential twice. Clearly telling you what is going to happen is not my strong suit. Instead, I’d be happy if…
Tyus Battle scores 18 points and grabs five rebounds per game.
We all know this is going to be a big year for Mr. Battle. We expect him to lead the Orange attack and doing so successfully would require an output of around 18 points per game. The loss of Taurean Thompson has put more scoring on his capable shoulders. It also left a glaring rebounding hole, and the guards are going to need to help hit the boards. I expect Battle to have moments playing down in the zone as well, which should help add to his totals.
Geno Thorpe puts up 10 points and five assists per game.
Those were another grad student’s numbers a season ago, and it may not be fair to expect Thorpe to match the output of John Gillon. But, considering he scored 15.1ppg against lesser opponents and dished out 4.6apg to inferior teammates, 10 and 5 may not be so unfathomable. Assuming the ankle heals as expected, we know he’s going to get the minutes, but a lot of his success will depend on whether or not…
Frank Howard shoots at least 43% from the field.
I know I took a jab at the top of this column, but I truly like Howard. I think he’s a terrific defender at the top of the zone and I’d like to see him playing alongside Thorpe instead of just coming off the bench to spell him from time to time. Howard doesn’t need to become a knockdown shooter, but he needs to do better than the 35% he shot last season if he’s going to stay on the court.
Paschal Chukwu blocks 2-3 shots per game and intimidates teams in the paint.
One of the weakest spots in the zone is the area just below the foul line. Chukwu at 7-feet-2-inches has the size to negate that. If he can stand his ground, Battle, Howard and Thorpe will have chances for steals and transition opportunities. The top of the zone is a strength this year, but to reach full potential, they’ll need Chukwu hold down the fort inside.
Marek Dolezaj can hold his down against bigger forwards in the ACC and score eight points and grab four rebounds per game.
Weighing in at a paltry 180 pounds, Dolezaj can easily be overpowered by the bigger bodies in the ACC, negating his proven ability to score. He played well overseas though and has a well-rounded game, so if he can find a way not to be treated by a rag doll, he’ll be a real contributor this season.
Some Combination of Oshae Brissett, Matthew Moyer, Bourama Sidibe, and Howard Washington contribute in every game.
If everything else happens, at least three of these freshmen contributing on a regular basis would be icing on the cake. Each brings different skills to the fold and can help keep the starters fresh. Brissett could end up starting, but the key will be his play keeping him out there for long stretches. Boeheim has always favored a short rotation, and even his deeper teams on paper have been dwindled down as the season wore on. But, if these guys can be counted upon to knock down shots, play defense, and make smart decisions, maybe Battle won’t have to play 37 minutes a night and risk being rundown by the time the postseason comes around.
And lastly, I’d be happy if the Orange make the NCAA Tournament.
The departures of Tyler Lydon, John Gillon, and Andrew White III are going to be tough to replace, and that team only made the NIT. Taurean Thompson’s disappearing act certainly doesn’t help either. I don’t expect miracles this season. A return to the big dance would be enough to make me happy, no matter the outcome.