It was a busy long weekend for Syracuse Orange basketball fans. Darius Bazley’s decision to head to the G League coupled with the ongoing questions around Tyus Battle’s NBA Draft status are enough to get most of us at least a little stressed about 2018-19.
Bazley’s departure alone resets expectations a little from the lofty heights of just a week ago, a fact hammered home by Syracuse’s absence from most of the way-too-early top 25 rankings we’ve seen.
However, all is not lost for the Orange. And many of us can still be pretty positive about what’s coming next season — especially if Battle returns. Below, some of the TNIAAM staff shares their thoughts on our NEW expectations.
I’m usually the positive one around here, but Bazley’s departure is going to have a huge effect on this team next year. The Orange are still going to be dynamic on both ends of the floor, but they are going to miss that one freak athlete who can be a tear in transition with or without the ball. Bazley’s ability to create off the dribble will truly be missed, as it would have opened up easy shots on the perimeter for Syracuse’s guards. The defensive end of the floor is where he may be missed most, as his length and athleticism fit coach Jim Boeheim’s zone scheme to perfection. Imagine a lengthy forward who can create steals and finish in transition: well, that once was a reality, but now will only be a dream that can’t come true.
We still have to wait for the NBA Draft deadline, but I expect Syracuse to land between somewhere at the end in the preseason Top 25. Bazley’s decision and Moyer’s transfer simply means more Marek Dolezaj and after what we saw in the post-season, this isn’t a bad thing at all. I think the biggest impact we’ll see is that more offense will need to come from the backcourt next year. The Orange might not be as deep (so long dreams of lots of pressing) but still looks to have the ingredients needed for Jim Boeheim’s 7-8 man rotation. I still think this is a roster which will be closer to a NCAA 4/5 seed. Sorry to all bracketologists for ruining your “Why is Syracuse included in the bubble discussion?” takes.
As confident as I am in the staff to pick up someone in the place of Bazley, I’d be pretty surprised if they found anyone quite as good in either the grad transfer market or in the 2018 recruiting class. Syracuse will undoubtedly pick someone up and put that scholarship to use but that said, without Bazley I think Syracuse goes from pushing for the national title, down to a second-weekend type of team that still has the ability to push for a Final Four berth. I say all that given there’s still a chance that the Orange return its entire starting lineup from this year’s Sweet 16 team. The guys have already proven they can make a run in March and if everyone from that group returns with key reserves now healthy and eligible Syracuse can still be really good in 2018-2019.
Bazley lowers the ceiling for this team, but even without him, this is a pretty interesting — and potentially improved — team. Elijah Hughes brings the outside threat we didn’t have last year. Oshae Brissett’s a potential lottery pick. Dolezaj showed himself to be much improved over the course of the season. Syracuse’s bigs were banged up and won’t be for 2018-19 (at least not at first). Add Battle and Frank Howard to that mix and there’s a lot to like on both ends of the floor. It’s not a Final Four team, necessarily. But I’d entertain something like a top-five ACC finish and another Sweet 16 trip.
How about you?