Last season, Syracuse Orange guards Tyus Battle and Frank Howard ranked first and second. Together they were the very best in the nation and ipso facto, the ACC.
In minutes played, that is.
By now you’re well aware of that as it was talked and written about ad nauseam. Tyus and Frank logged a total of 1443 and 1423 minutes respectively last season (39.0 and 38.4 mpg), appearing in all 37 contests for Jim Boeheim.
In this upcoming 2018-2019 season, the now upperclassmen figure to log their fair share of respective minutes, but with reserves in the fold and Howard Washington healthy, Tyus and Frank won’t be the only two scholarship guards available — total minutes should come down just a shade. That could actually help their production and should help their efficiency.
Taking an ex ante prognostication of the season ahead, it isn’t unreasonable to think that Tyus and Frank could be the best starting backcourt in the ACC. Their stat lines from last season looked like this:
Together, Frank and Tyus averaged 33.6 points per game — the highest scoring average of any Syracuse backcourt since 1980 — 6.8 assists, 6.4 rebounds and 3.3 steals per game. Those are lurid numbers.
The two of them will have to shoot better percentages from the floor and both should be able to execute on that. Even if they don’t get better this offseason — which they both will — just having more scorers available should open up some more space for them to operate. Frank has also been knocking down threes at a 90 percent clip. Granted, nobody is guarding him in open space but it’s still impressive nonetheless.
With more scoring available to Syracuse, Tyus doesn’t have to go out and get over 19 points per game (although he still just might), but his rebounding and assists should come up along with his field goal percentage.
Frank should be able to facilitate a little more now too. Look for his assists to come up and his turnovers to come down. We talked a few months back over the phone on what Boeheim said to him at season’s end and what he expects out of Frank in his final season at Syracuse.
“Going into this last year, it’s kind of full throttle, giving it all I got, that’s what me and coach (Boeheim) talked about,” Frank said in a mid-June conversation. “He always tells me I can do so much more and thats what I plan on doing. He still wants me to score the ball. I’ll have a lot more pieces so I’ll be able to mix it up even more and get back to really distributing the ball like I kind of want to.”
Frank also noted that Boeheim still wants him to score around his junior year average, maybe one or two points more per game and to also be more efficient, viz., cutting down turnovers.
“I think having more ball handlers as well, the load won’t all be on me so I’ll be able to get off the ball a little bit, score too,” He finished.
When facing pressure it would be a luxury to not have Frank do most of the heavy lifting. While he’ll primarily play the point, having him off ball in the half court in certain spots wouldn’t hurt.
When defending Syracuse, teams won’t be able to focus in on just three offensive players on the scout and if Marek Dolezaj picks up where he left off, the Orange will have scoring at every wing and guard spot on the floor.
Taking a look around the conference, Tyus and Frank will have some competition for the conference’s top backcourt spot. Back in the fold are Ty Jerome and Kyle Guy for Virginia. The Cavalier backcourt might be the toughest in the ACC.
Virginia Tech should be sneaky good despite losing Justin Bibbs as Justin Robinson and Nickeil Alexander-Walker are back in the mix.
After making a Sweet 16 appearance last March, Clemson will lose Gabe DeVoe but it welcomes back Marcquise Reed and Shelton Mitchell to its backcourt.
Notre Dame will lose Matt Farrell but TJ Gibbs and Rex Pflueger return.
And of course, we’d be remiss not to mention Tobacco Road. North Carolina will lose Joel Berry but it will return Kenny Williams and Cam Johnson.
Duke will bring in freshman stud Tre Jones at point. Either Cam Reddish or RJ Barrett will make a solid backcourt counterpart despite both of them being natural forwards.
There’s plenty of guard competition in the ACC as there is every year. It wouldn’t be a top basketball conference otherwise. That said, there’s no reason to believe that Tyus and Frank can’t vie for top backcourt honors, especially with one more year of experience under their collective belt and options off the bench.