Around this time last year, I took a look at who would be the right player to have the ball in their hands with the score tied and the game-clock ticking down. Now that we know all of the contributors from last year’s Sweet 16 squad are returning, I thought it’d be interesting to take a look at some options for the 2018-19 team if and when the Syracuse Orange need a late hero.
Unlike the 2016-2017 season, the Orange didn’t find themselves with any miraculous buzzer beaters helping their cause last year — they did fall to the Notre Dame Fighting Irish via a game-winning bucket at home, but let’s not talk about that one...
The Orange’s iso-centric offensive style was heavily relied upon late in games last year, as the “big three” of Frank Howard, Tyus Battle, and Oshae Brissett, were asked to generate offense on their own. The lack of shooting on the perimeter made it difficult to find some separation, but the sheer talent alone allowed the dynamic scorers to find a way to put the ball in the basket (when they weren’t busy grinding offense to a halt).
Now that the “big three” have a full off season to improve on their games, and with addition of skilled scoring guard Elijah Hughes, — who Jim Boeheim was very complimentary of on Monday — Syracuse will have the ability to find a good shot, rather than force up a contested one in close games next year.
From his game winner against the Clemson Tigers his freshman year, to his miraculous shot making ability over multiple defenders, Battle is and will be the go to player for Syracuse when a win is one made shot away.
Battle’s ability to break down a defense off the dribble will not only open up shots for him, but the extra attention on the proven scorer will create open looks for his teammates on the perimeter too.
With a full off season to focus on improvement, Battle’s running mates will hopefully be able to add a more consistent three-point shot, thus making it even harder for defenses to stop the attacking Battle late in games. Also, Hughes’s shot-making ability will give Boeheim another option if the opposing defense focuses in on the proven “big three.”
The lack of shooting last year left the Orange relying on pick and rolls that resulted in isolations, but with some improvement on the perimeter, coach Boeheim can now look forward to some more movement on the outside, thus opening up easy driving lanes for his guards.
While the aforementioned players will be the expected to have the ball in their hands late, crafty forward Marek Dolezaj could sneak in for an easy bucket. His ability to slash through the lane allows him to use his soft touch around the rim to take advantage of opposing defenses.
The great thing about the upcoming 2018-19 Syracuse Orange is that they have the combination of versatility and experience. Howard, Battle, and Brissett all have the ability to break their defenders down off the dribble, but it’s their experience in high-pressure games that will help them make the right play when it matters most.
It’s not always the scorer who gets the glory in a win, but it’s the playmaker who creates the winning play for a team when the buzzer sounds. The Orange have a boatload of playmakers who can create in the highest stakes.