The Syracuse Orange were carried by their dynamic backcourt of Frank Howard and Tyus Battle last year, to say the least. In the isolation-based offense, Howard and Battle were relied upon to carry the bulk of the scoring from both outside the perimeter and inside the paint.
The two backcourt mates averaged 33.6 points per game last year, which stands as the second-highest scoring backcourt for the Orange since 1980. The only backcourt duo to outperform Howard and Battle was the 1993-94 pairing of Lawerence Moten and Adrian Autry, who put up a combined 38.2 points per game.
The difference between the 1994 backcourt duo and last year’s is that both Howard and Battle are returning for one more run together, while the duo of Moten and Autry ended after that second round loss against the Arkansas Razorbacks.
Backcourt pairings that have returned the following year haven’t been able to top what Howard and Battle did in the 2017-18 campaign. The closest average for a returning backcourt was the 2007-08 duo of Jonny Flynn and Eric Devendorf who averaged 32.7 points per game. The following season, Flynn and Devendorf were able to slightly boost their average up to 33.1 points per game.
Some other big name returning backcourts in Syracuse history didn’t come close to touching Howard and Battle’s production from last year. In 2010-11, Scoop Jardine and Brandon Triche averaged 23.6 points per game, and the following year they saw that number drop to 18.3 points per game.
Michael Gbinije and Trevor Cooney averaged 26.1 points per game in the 2014-2015 season, and they bumped that number up to 30.3 in the magical Final Four run the following season. Despite the ups and downs that Howard and Battle went through last year, they were still able to put their names in the same conversation as some of Syracuse’s all-time great players.
With another heavy scoring load expected out of Howard and Battle in the 2018-2019 season, you can expect some more historic numbers to be added to their names. Elijah Hughes is now in the picture, which means the latter veterans won’t be asked to stay in the game for its entirety anymore — or at least we hope.
The extra help off the bench should make life easier for the returning backcourt, but that doesn’t mean Howard and Battle should take their foot off the gas. If the Orange want to make a deeper run than last year’s, they’ll need both to continue to attack the paint (when the Orange offense was most effective last year). Similarly, you’ll see a lot more effective production if either (or both) come back to campus with an improved three-point shot.
The scoring average may dip a little for Howard and Battle given the slight minutes reduction coming. But with an improved Oshae Brissett and some more help in the backcourt, the guard duo may be set up well for bigger moments, rather than bigger numbers.