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For Syracuse, next year’s success starts with improved forwards

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The frontcourt is poised to carry the Orange amid changes this offseason.

NCAA Basketball: Texas Southern at Syracuse Mark Konezny-USA TODAY Sports

Among the many reaosns why the Syracuse Orange men’s basketball team has lost double-digit games repeatedly lately, one of the biggest is the fact that they’ve been playing 4-on-5 on offense since 2016. As SU’s focused heavily on defense, there’s been a premium put on defensive play at the center position — so much so that they’ve barely been a factor at all on offense.

If Syracuse wants to get out of the current rut, it probably demands an improvement at the 5, and the entire frontcourt in general. And if the Orange are poised to improve at all despite major departures from the starting lineup, it also likely calls on those same forwards to take several leaps in terms of production.

The Daily Orange talks about how Marek Dolezaj and Bourama Sidibe are the focus of an offseason regime aimed at building strength and long-term health. The two players combined for just six points and 6.2 rebounds per game in 2018-19, so obviously that’ll need to improve along with the combined 5.1 fouls per game (this despite Sidibe sitting for extensive minutes).

Dolezaj and Sidibe don’t need to be offensive juggernauts. But with better strength and conditioning and an emphasis on better shots, they’re expected to up the production in the paint and allow for more offensive opportunities. SU won’t have a playmaker like Tyus Battle next season, so forwards need to score or this team becomes very stagnant very quickly.

That, plus the rest of your Syracuse-related links below:

Strength and health: Syracuse’s returning forwards to begin offseason regimen (Daily Orange)

“I really don’t see a lot of progress in myself,” Sidibe said last week. “It is what it is. I have to keep my head up, keep working every day. Sometimes, it’s frustrating when you’re not playing, but you can’t argue with coach’s decisions. I have to focus on any opportunity I go in and try my best. I’m not satisfied, but I have to move on. I can’t go back.”

What does it mean for Syracuse basketball if Oshae Brissett goes pro? (Syracuse.com)

The top recruit in Syracuse’s 2019 recruiting class is Quincy Guerrier, a powerfully-built 6-foot-7 forward from Thetford Academy in Thetford Mines, Quebec. Syracuse struck Canadian gold in the underrated Brissett, could the Orange have another hidden gem on the way? Syracuse’s roster this past season had just two forwards behind Brissett and Hughes.

NCAA Tournament money: Big Ten gets most, SEC sets own high (AP)

Michigan State’s victory against Duke on Sunday that sent the Spartans to the Final Four earned the Big Ten’s 21st unit to edge out the ACC, and also set a conference high. The Spartans will face Texas Tech from the Big 12 in the Final Four on Saturday in Minneapolis. The Big 12 came in fourth with 13 units for at least $22 million.

Communication, on-field drills have solved Syracuse’s second-half struggles (Daily Orange)

Since then, the Orange have tweaked their halftime routine and outscored their opponents in the second half of each of their past five games. “I think it had a lot to do with getting too comfortable,” senior midfielder Natalie Wallon said. “When we come with our game plan in the first half it’s all great, we get up on teams by a lot then we get a little bit too comfortable.

Who didn’t expect this Final Four? (FiveThirtyEight)

I think Izzo was motivated to take back the “best performance vs. seed expectations” crown from Jim Boeheim. Izzo’s teams have a long history of exceeding expectations en route to the Final Four, but maybe that’s why they don’t win titles. Overachieving can only get you so far.

Andrew Helmer’s offensive improvement shows in shot clock era (Daily Orange)

The biggest Elite Eight upsets in NCAA Tournament history (CBS Sports)

More than 4,000 new football season tickets sold (Cuse.com)

ACC basketball departures since 2010 by school (Blogger So Dear)

This Final Four could never happen in football (NewsOK)