Yes, the sample size is small at the moment. But Syracuse basketball is 3-0 to start the season (as it should be), and the wins have been impressive so far. The Orange has beaten two tournament teams from last year as well as Cornell. The closest game has been Iona, but the Gaels are the best team SU has faced this season.
Coming into the year, expectations were not very high on an Orange team that was inexperienced and returning just one starter from a year ago. But so far, everything has gone right for Syracuse.
That lone returning starter is Tyus Battle, and he has lived up to expectations and then some. The sophomore is averaging 22.3 points per game and might have had the dunk of the year last night.
— ACC Digital Network (@theACCDN) November 19, 2017
The game seems easy to him now and he hasn’t had a problem sliding into that leadership role that this team so desperately needed.
One of the other key returning pieces is point guard Frank Howard, who just seems to be playing with more confidence. He’s averaging 12 points per game and looks much more polished with his jumpshot, which has carried him to shooting a team-leading 45 percent from deep. He also leads the team in assists, but it’s coming at a cost of turning the ball over more than three times per game. Howard realizes it’s slim pickings behind him on the depth chart, but if the Orange wants to have success, he’ll need to keep doing what he’s doing, but with fewer turnovers.
Maybe the biggest surprise has been how effective the freshman have been. Who would have thought that three games in, Oshae Brissett would nearly be averaging a double-double and you could make an argument that he’s been the third best freshman on the team? Brissett’s been great, especially on the boards where he leads the team, but Marek Dolezaj and Bourama Sidibe have opened eyes in the early going. Dolezaj might be the most surprising so far. You would figure that if he were winning over the SU fanbase, it would be from his shooting ability, but the Slovak actually is doing it on the glass. He leads the team with 13 offensive rebounds, which is more than the defensive total for all but two Orange players. He’s tied for 20th in the entire country in offensive rebounds per game, (fun fact: BJ Johnson has the second most total offensive boards in the country with 19). Alongside Dolezaj, Sidibe has proven to be versatile and mobile down low. The offensive game should come around with time, but yesterday against Texas Southern was a stepping stone with a career high 11 points. And an honorable mention goes to Howard Washington. Even though he hasn’t logged many minutes or done much in games, he looks like he’s going to be a terrific distributor in the future based on the limited minutes he played against Texas Southern.
Now all of this has been great so far, but the real test starts against Oakland, the Horizon League favorite, and segways into a tough stretch of games that includes Maryland and Kansas. That’s when we’ll know how legit this Orange team is before starting ACC play. But hey, at least it’s fun for now.