While we can look at next year’s recruiting class and drool over guys like Darius Bazley, Jalen Carey and Buddy Boeheim that are coming into the program, it’s also important to consider what SU could be losing. The Orange won’t lose anybody in a graduation sense like it did with Andrew White or John Gillon last year, but it could be losing some talent to the NBA draft, a la Malachi Richardson and Tyler Lydon.
The Orange’s only two players with any semblance of draft stock are sophomore guard Tyus Battle and freshman forward Oshae Brissett. Obviously, both have shown flashes of absolute brilliance this season and the tournament run didn’t hurt the way NBA teams viewed them. Brissett has already hinted at a return to the Orange for his sophomore season, but Battle said it’s still too early for him to make a decision.
Both have a good case for heading to the NBA and SU fans should support their decisions either way because both were a huge part of the reason that Orange fanatics got to witness that wild Sweet 16 run. However, it’s also important to be a bit selfish and figure out how each of them leaving could affect the product moving forward. Well, we’ve done a bit of that for you and we’ve come to a conclusion: It’s better to lose Tyus Battle to the NBA than it is to lose Oshae Brissett. Some might be a little surprised to read that and we admit that the best case scenario is that neither leaves Central New York, but we’ve got the reasons why Brissett may just be more valuable than Battle:
Brissett’s abilities are more crucial to next year’s team than Battle’s
Before everyone gets all up in arms, just let me explain my rationale here. Battle was clearly the best scorer on the team this season and it wasn’t even close. Every single night you could rely on him to give you 15-20 points and sometimes even more. Most of that came from getting to the basket, finishing through contact and a lethal midrange jumper. However, one thing he showed that he wasn’t great at was knocking down the three-ball. Battle shot it at just 32.2% on the season. On the other hand, Brissett shot over 33% from beyond the arc and while that doesn’t seem like a big difference, you have to consider that Brissett was pretty terrible from beyond the arc at the beginning of the season, so the fact that he got it all the way up to that mark shows that he improved drastically and could be a really great three-point shooter moving forward. If you lose Brissett, you could be losing some of that accuracy from downtown, something you might not lose with Battle.
On top of losing that shooting touch if Brissett left, you’d also be losing the majority of your rebounding from this year. Brissett led the team in rebounding by a pretty wide margin at 8.8 rebounds per game (Paschal Chukwu was the next closest at 6.8). We saw in the Michigan State and Duke games in the NCAA Tournament that rebounding was an issue for the Orange and that was with Brissett. He was the only guy that could consistently crash the glass and get boards no matter what his matchup was on any given night. Meanwhile, Battle wasn’t even the best rebounding guard on the team, let alone overall. You’d certainly be losing a lot of talent and production without Tyus Battle, but I think what you’d be losing with him is less important and easier to replace than what you might be losing if Oshae Brissett decided to leave.
There would be a log jam of guards if Battle stayed
All the talk about next year’s recruiting class has surrounded Darius Bazley and rightfully so. He’ll be the first top-ten recruit to come to the Orange since Carmelo Anthony and will have an immediate impact on the Orange’s season. I raise this point to bring up the fact that we aren’t talking enough about Jalen Carey, who will be a freshman next season, or Elijah Hughes, the transfer from ECU who will be eligible at the beginning of the 2018-2019 season. For my money, both Carey and Hughes have very similar games to Tyus Battle. Strong, long guards who score best coming off the dribble, getting to the bucket and creating their own shot. Both can be talented defenders at the top of the 2-3 zone. I’m not saying they are exact replicas of Battle, but their games are very similar so if Battle stayed, the three of them would be competing for a lot of playing time.
Add more “true” point guards (Carey is listed as one, but I liken his game to more of a two-guard role) Frank Howard and Howard Washington to the bunch and you’ve got six guys battling for what is essentially two positions. This would mean that one or more of the young guys would suffer and wouldn’t be able to develop the way they could if Battle wasn’t there. In the case of Brissett, the frontcourt is only gaining one newcomer in the form of Darius Bazley and you know a talent like him is going to play, so Brissett coming back wouldn’t really take away from his development or ability and you already know what you’re getting from everyone else (Chukwu, Sidibe, Dolezaj and Moyer) so there’s less of an impact if Battle leaves than if Brissett does.
A note: Buddy Boeheim is a bit of a tweener in this situation because he can play either the two or the three and unlike Carey and Hughes, his game isn’t very similar to Battle’s, but his playing time could also be affected if either Brissett or Battle chooses to leave.
The thought of a frontcourt featuring Brissett and Darius Bazley is scary
So far, we’ve talked a lot about why it would be better for Battle to leave. So how about we take a look at the biggest pro to Brissett staying. Throughout the season, Brissett showed that he was criminally underrated by most recruiting services because of the fact that he didn’t get as much exposure as he should have because he lived in Canada. He proved that he was the second-best freshman in the ACC behind Marvin Bagley who may be the top pick in June’s NBA Draft. You’ve got to figure that he’ll get even better over the summer and that’s a scary thought when you consider what he and Darius Bazley could make the SU frontcourt look like next season.
The bigs were SU’s weakness this season and seriously limited what the Orange could do on offense. Even when Chukwu or Sidibe was setting good screens, neither of them was seen as an offensive threat, so the roll of that screen was essentially useless. However, with Brissett and Bazley setting the screens a year from now, that adds a whole new dimension to the SU attack. Both have shown the ability to be skilled scorers and if a team decides to concentrate on one of them, then that opens the door for the other to have a big night or vice versa. Then if you decide to focus on the both of them and take them out of the offensive game plan, then you leave the skilled crop of guards open to wreak havoc. I think that the combo of Brissett and Bazley has the ability to be the most feared unit in the ACC akin to Bagley and Wendell Carter for Duke (whether it be guard combos, two-man games or frontcourt combos), but that can only come to fruition if Brissett stays for another season and that’s why it would be so tough to see him go.