Orange Watch: How far can Syracuse progress in NCAA Tournament bracket?

Buddy Boeheim reacts after hitting a 3-pointer. Mandatory Photo Credit: Kicia Sears, The Juice Online.

Item: Only Tyus Battle’s name represented the Syracuse program by appearing on one of the 12 All-ACC Conference teams and honors announced by the league Monday afternoon, the junior garnering a Third Team selection. It caps off a rather unheralded sixth place regular season finish among the 15 teams for the Orange, even with an 11-8 record in the country’s strongest conference. Next, Boston College or Pittsburgh wait Wednesday night (9:30 p.m. ET approximately / ESPN2-ACCN) in an ACC Tournament second round matchup in Charlotte, the ‘Cuse sweeping both teams home-and-home, and beginning its rehearsal for another multi-week engagement in the Big Dance.

As the Syracuse players went through a scheduled 55 minute practice session at the Spectrum Center Monday night to begin to get ready for single elimination play, with Battle the only SU player garnering All-Conference honors (he was a Second Team choice a season ago) it got us to thinking about a team with all five starters returning from a Sweet 16 team, but with one of those starters now a sixth man.

Among only the six overall returning players, did they make progression with another year under their belt in the program, or was there regression due to injury or other circumstances to their individual game?

Tyus Battle – Yes, he dropped from Second Team to Third Team all conference and so did his scoring average by a couple of points, but Battle was a hounded player in every game by opposing defenses. He ran the point out of necessity early, in the middle, and late in the season, and still averaged 17.2 ppg. = Progressed

» Related: Despite returning talent, Syracuse has remained in neutral

Frank Howard – The leg injury that cost Howard four November games seemed to hang over his head the entire season with his scoring average dropping from 15.2 to 7.9 ppg, and losing playing time with Battle at the point and Buddy Boeheim shooting. = Regressed

Oshae Brissett – Jim Boeheim mentioned his sophomore’s shooting slump this year as the season wound down, noting he’s making them in practice but not in games. Brissett still remains effective driving to the hoop or finding teammates for open shots, but there has been a lack of consistency. = Regressed

Marek Dolezaj – What’s not to like about the basketball-savvy second year player? Yes, he still continues the need to gain weight and strength, and he’s still too unselfish at times, but his overall athleticism, hustle, and general feel for the game have been a pleasant development. = Progressed

Pascal Chukwu – There was the Jan. 9 DNP (coach’s decision) against Clemson, and a ton of inconsistency as Chukwu finished his injury-hampered Syracuse career. The highlight was his 10 points and career-best 18 rebounds in the win at No. 1 Duke, and one other early season double-double (Morehead State). = Progressed (slightly)

Bourama Sidibe – Missing four games and playing at times earlier in the season hampered by a sore knee, Sidibe has been more active underneath the basket at both ends receiving more playing time. Although not reflective in his per game points and rebounding averages based on overall minutes played, Sidibe will now be counted on to give SU 15 fouls among its trio of big men in the upcoming tournaments. = Progressed

The six returnees from the NCAA regional semifinal team, along with first year players Elijah Hughes and Buddy Boeheim, and a supporting cast of Jalen Carey, Robert Braswell, and the injured Howard Washington and walk-ons cheering from the sidelines, along with a favorable match-up or two, will determine if this year’s team is playing at least as long as last year’s team.

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About Brad Bierman 848 Articles
Now in his sixth decade of covering SU sports, Brad was sports director of WSYR radio for eight years into the early 1990s, then wrote the Orange Watch column for The Big Orange/The Juice print publication for 18 years. A Syracuse University graduate, Brad currently runs his own media consulting business in the Philadelphia suburbs. Follow him on Twitter @BradBierman.