Could it be? Good news in the offseason for the Syracuse Orange? Well, Tyus Battle changed the season narrative, and likely next season’s too, with his announcement to return for his junior season with the Orange.
Of course, this announcement couldn’t have come without a little drama — it wouldn’t have been the Syracuse-way without it. After deleting his Instagram post that stated his return earlier on Wednesday, the Syracuse faithful waited into the night to hear for certain the star shooting guard would utter the phrase they’ve been waiting for these past two months:
“I have decided to go back to Syracuse University to complete my junior year”.
I have decided to go back to Syracuse University to complete my junior year. Although I may have gotten picked by the NBA team of my dreams, I feel it is in my best interest at this time to focus on improving some fine points in my game while continuing to work towards achieving my degree. My plan is to re-enter the draft next year. Going back to Syracuse is on many levels an easy decision - that is where I want to be for now. I had some incredible workouts with some amazing NBA organizations. However, the NBA will (God-willing) be in my future chapter. This year it’s all about the CUSE! Shout out to all of the CUSE fans who supported me throughout this process as well as my family, coaches, teammates and Drew Hanlen. #chasingperfection
The Orange were a promising team already heading into the 2018-2019 season. But with their leading scorer (Battle) returning, SU can now think about bigger goals and (potentially) higher expectations for their upcoming season.
Battle averaged 19.8 points per game last year, which was good for third in the ACC; his improved jump shot and tenacious dribble penetration helped the Orange stay afloat all year long. From game-winning buckets, to end-of-the-shot-clock daggers, Battle was the leader Syracuse needed last year when other options were few and far between.
With two years under his belt in coach Jim Boeheim’s system, Battle will now be asked to do even more in his junior year — though likely without playing 40 minutes per night. The offense is still going to run through Battle, but with more weapons and experienced returners by his side, the 6’6” guard is going to have to become more of a playmaker to help create opportunities for his teammates (as well as himself).
Battle’s return provides the offense with versatility and length, along with even more postseason experience. All of that, plus some added accuracy from all of the team’s shooters could make for an offensive leap in 2018-19. After finishing tied for 12th in the ACC in scoring last year, this, shall I say, deep team can change the narrative by scoring in a multitude of ways.
Battle’s ability to beat his man off the dribble opens up scoring for all Syracuse players on the floor. Not only does Battle have the athleticism and touch to score around the rim, but he also demands more than enough attention when he gets in the lane, thus opening up opportunities on the perimeter for his teammates to score.
Battle has the luxury of having an experienced Oshae Brissett run the team with him next year, which will make life so much easier for the returning junior. Brissett showcased his dynamic skillset in just one season with the Orange, so just imagine the kind of defensive attention he is going to demand with a full off season to improve/mature.
Having Brissett command more potential double teams/extra attention will leave easier lanes for Battle to drive through. The two dominant perimeter players can both get a little iso-centric at times. But with a year of experience playing with each other under their belt, Battle and Brissett may improve as one of college basketball’s most lethal dynamic duos.
Of course, we cannot forget about Battle’s backcourt-mate, Frank Howard, who will also have a much easier time with Battle back in the picture. Battle’s ability to play off of Howard’s dribble penetration will only improve now that both of the guards are upperclassmen.
Improving his perimeter shot will be crucial for Battle and the Orange to take that next step, as it’ll open up a potential inside-out game for the Orange. Marek Dolezaj isn’t a back-to-the-basket kind of player, but his ability to slash through the lane should open up some three-point opportunities for Battle in the corner.
Battle’s return to the Carrier Dome could raise expectations for the 2018-2019 Syracuse Orange, and rightfully so. He has a chance to be one of the best shooting guards in the country next year, and he will have an experienced/deep roster to carry as far as he can take them. In 2017-18, that proved to be the Sweet 16. So where to this time around?