Awarding superlatives to Syracuse men’s basketball 2017-18 season

first_imgKevin Camelo | Digital Design EditorMVP: Tyus BattleAlexandra Moreo | Senior Staff PhotographerBefore the season, Battle faced the question of whether he could become the alpha Syracuse needed. He answered with a resounding YEP. Battle strapped this team to his back and carried it for most of the season by scoring, and that doesn’t really do justice to the job he did Heimlich-ing the Orange’s offense at the end of the shot clock on a possession-by-possession basis. His experience at the top of the 2-3 zone on defense with Frank Howard helped settle greener players behind him, and that suffocating pressure spearheaded a run to the Sweet 16.AdvertisementThis is placeholder textBattle didn’t dazzle throughout, but he played well enough on the biggest stages to pull his NBA Draft projection from late second round to the late first. His 3-point shooting percentage (32.2) probably didn’t end up where he wanted, but that could be a byproduct of every team focusing on slowing him down every night. But hey, that’s the responsibility of the team’s alpha. — Sam FortierMost pleasant surprise: Marek DolezajAlexandra Moreo | Senior Staff PhotographerIn his 42 years at Syracuse, head coach Jim Boeheim said he has offered a scholarship only twice to players he had not seen in person. One was the “worst player I had,” whom Boeheim did not name. The other is Dolezaj. The coaching staff overhauled Dolezaj’s jumpshot, which helped him go from little-known reserve to starting forward for the second half of the season. He’s so skilled, Boeheim said, that if he were 200 pounds he’d “probably be one of the better players in the country.” His growth is encouraging and he factors to be a key cog for the Orange in years to come. — Matthew GutierrezBiggest disappointment: Matthew MoyerMoyer redshirted a year ago after suffering a turf toe injury and missing much of the preseason. The 6-foot-8, 215-pound forward came in as the No. 74 recruit in the 2016 class and was the Connecticut Player of the Year his senior year of high school. There was the hope that the year off would allow Moyer to develop on the side and prepare him to take on a leading role this season.Instead, Moyer never really got his redshirt freshman season going. He struggled early in nonconference play, oftentimes getting the brunt end of Jim Boeheim’s yelling when he’d get subbed out. Moyer had a breakout, 18-point 11-rebound performance against Connecticut, but that proved to be an aberration, not the start of the trend.Then on Jan. 24, Moyer sprained his ankle. He missed a few games and lost his starting spot to Marek Dolezaj. Even after he came back, Moyer primarily only saw the court either to spell Dolezaj for a few minutes, or if the Orange was hit by foul trouble.Moyer ended the season averaging 3.2 points and 3.4 rebounds, while playing just 16.8 minutes per game — and he didn’t reach that mark in any contest since SU’s penultimate regular season game against Boston College. On Monday, he announced his transfer from SU. — Tomer LangerBiggest flaw: OffenseAlexandra Moreo | Senior Staff PhotographerIn late February, Boeheim said only three players were capable of scoring. That held true for nearly the entire season, save for the occasional random outbursts. Nearly one-third of Syracuse shots were midrange 2-pointers. The midrange jumper is the most ineffective shot in college basketball. That issue was compounded by SU’s inconsistent 3-point shooting.Junior point guard Frank Howard turned into the second-most improved player in the conference, Brissett shined as one of the better freshmen in the country and Battle was the team MVP. Dolezaj chipped in, too. Otherwise, the Syracuse offense was the biggest weakness on this team. — M.G.Biggest X-factor for next season: ForwardsNext season, the forward position group will likely be the indicator of Syracuse’s success. The Orange will have sophomores in Oshae Brissett and Marek Dolezaj who grew remarkably this season, and they’re complemented by a top-10 recruit in Darius Bazley. Brissett is the most important member of this group, and he said he’s for sure staying.This year, Brissett struggled with finishing at the rim, selecting the best shot and allowing the big moments to swallow him. Those issues are the biggest worry, but Brissett’s improvement this season and perimeter performance are points for optimism. Still, as you know, when it comes to Syracuse basketball, what makes sense really doesn’t matter. — S.F.Evaluating the coaching staffAlexandra Moreo | Senior Staff PhotographerOn an individual level, a lot of SU’s players made strides throughout the course of the season.Brissett shot 28 percent from deep in nonconference play, but upped that to 37.6 in the ACC. He also became a better finisher through contact and eventually developed into a late-game bucket getter.Marek Dolezaj seemed timid and afraid to shoot the ball early in the season. But he had his two highest-scoring games in the postseason: a 20-point performance against Wake Forest in the ACC Tournament and a 17-point outburst against TCU in the NCAA Tournament.On top of the individual success, Syracuse was a Top 10 defense in points allowed and in adjusted defensive efficiency, per Kenpom.com. In fact, this year’s 2-3 zone had the best adjusted efficiency of any SU team since 2013. Doing all that with a seven-man rotation, that really only had six healthy players, was very impressive.Still, there’s a reason this year’s efforts didn’t get an “A” from me. The entire season, Syracuse just couldn’t figure out how to manufacture offense. Nearly every game featured periods of isolation-heavy basketball with little off-ball movement and action.It’s not like SU didn’t have weapons. Tyus Battle was one of the best one-on-one scorers in the country. Frank Howard and Oshae Brissett almost always had size advantages over their defenders. But the offense was stale. At one point in the season, Boeheim said that he didn’t run plays because his players wouldn’t make the shots anyway. Frankly, that seemed like a cop-out. Because his players weren’t making a lot of their contested shots as the shot clock was winding down, anyway. — T.L. Comments Published on March 26, 2018 at 10:51 pm Facebook Twitter Google+last_img

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