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Talking Syracuse basketball: A TNIAAM roundtable

We talk rest, bench and pushing for the NCAA Tourney

NCAA Basketball: Pittsburgh at Syracuse Mark Konezny-USA TODAY Sports

With the Syracuse Orange basketball team enjoying a week between games we felt this was a good opportunity to do another TNIAAM roundtable. Let’s get right into it shall we?

Which Syracuse player benefits the most from the week off between games and why?

Andrew Godnick: With the lack of depth on this year’s roster, the Orange have needed to rely on heavy minutes out their key players. Tyus Battle, the team’s leading scorer, has played at least 37 minutes in the team’s last 16 games. Those kind of numbers are crazy for any collegiate player, but Battle has managed to maintain his place as the team’s leading scorer and leader on the court. The Orange have some big ACC games coming up that they will need Battle to dominate if they want to come out with some resume boosting wins, so this week off is going to do wonders for Battle who can now take a little time off to rest his body for a crucial final push towards March.

James Szuba: I think Tyus Battle will serve to benefit the most from the long stretch here. Battle logged 50 minutes against Florida State and has played all but 4 available minutes in the last four contests. Hopefully he will be able to rest and recharge.

Kevin Wall: I’m going to go with Oshae Brissett. I think he’s had to shoulder a bigger responsibility than expected and he’s played all but 5 minutes in ACC play. The time between games will allow him to work with the coaching staff to review film and see how he can become more effective in the offense.

NCAA Basketball: Pittsburgh at Syracuse Mark Konezny-USA TODAY Sports

In the last two games we’ve seen more of the bench rotation, what can those three guys bring to the team as they push to earn a NCAA bid?

AG: The Orange’s lack of depth has left them asking for near perfect play out of their starters, but in the past two games we have seen more action from the bench players. Marek Dolezaj has been the most consistent force off the bench with his ability to make the “winning” plays, but the Orange will need some more big time performances from Bourama Sidibe and Howard Washington if they want to earn that lucrative bid to the Big Dance. Washington will earn more playing time if he is able to take some of the pressure off of Battle and Frank Howard by making some plays towards the rim; we will start to see more of Washington as long as he limits his turnovers. Sidibe is a key piece to this team earning a NCAA bid with his ability to impact both sides of the floor. Sidibe will be able to earn himself some key minutes if he can be the defensive force he has shown he can be, as well as dominating the offensive glass for second chance opportunities. The starting lineup can only take the Orange so far, so look for coach Jim Boeheim to look for more production out of his bench.

JS: Starting with Howie, if he can just provide spot minutes for Frank and Tyus to get a blow without giving up anything defensively, that would be enough of a lift. I think Marek has a real change to be our go to guy in the high post against teams that want to zone Syracuse. He looks to be the only one totally comfortable in that spot. If he can defend more and rebound better in this physical league, that could help. If Bourama could only get healthy, that would be all he could really do. We saw how well he played in the center spot pre-injury so any sort of production from him right now would be a much needed boost. Syracuse could really use 5 extra fouls in there.

KW: I like that Washington was used in a 3-guard set against Pitt. His ability to direct the offense allows Frank to move off the ball and be used as a scorer. Marek might have the highest basketball IQ on this team. I didn’t think he’d be able to contribute this season due to his size but he’s shown a real understanding of the game. It would help this team if he’s not hesitant to look for his shot when he’s open. I also expect more teams will throw some zone at the Orange and he’s shown the ability to be the high post option. Without knowing where Bourama stands in terms of his health it would be beneficial if he can spell Chukwu from time to time and provide rebounding and an interior presence on defense. Most of all Syracuse needs these three guys to play with confidence and to trust their abilities when they are on the court.

NCAA Basketball: Pittsburgh at Syracuse Mark Konezny-USA TODAY Sports

Whose progression is most important to the offense (possibly) improving this year?

AG: The Orange aren’t known for their offense, but they are going to need to fix some of their scoring issues if they want to reach their full potential. Oshae Brissett has proven he can score in a multitude of ways, but this offense can become so much better if he can consistently knock down the three. Howard and Battle’s ability to penetrate the lane will command a help defender, making Brissett open for permitter shots; if Brissett starts to routinely make the three the help defender will have to respect his shot, leaving the lane open for penetration. The floor will start to open up for Syracuse’s “big three” if Brissett can become the perimeter shooter they need him to be.

JS: I think Marek’s progression is most important as the forward spot could use more production. While Howie could help, I don’t think he’ll be able to make the kind of jump necessary to really be a contributor until at least next year. Marek has shown he has the ability but has struggled with the physicality of ACC play. Putting on muscle is hard during the season, but if he can add weight to his frame and play out of the high post against zone I think he can contribute the most of the three bench guys.

KW: I’m going with Matthew Moyer. His step-back jumper against Pitt the other night was a classic “No no no no no....yes!” play but it showed a confidence which has been rare this season. This Syracuse team doesn’t need him forcing shots but if he’s a willing offensive player it’s going to open up a little more room for the rest of the team. Most opponents are going to play off of him so if he can take advantage for 8-10 points per game that’s going to make a difference.

As always let us know your thoughts in the comments below. Thanks to Andrew and James for helping out.