After some quick postseason reflection, Orange fans are already salivating over next year‚Äôs roster. Who could blame them? Syracuse brings in one of its best recruiting classes ever, featuring its best recruit since Carmelo Anthony in Darius Bazley. But the revolving door nature of college basketball holds a cloud over the 2018-19 Orange roster. Two of SU‚Äôs most talented pieces may not be around for next season‚Äôs high expectations.
It‚Äôs the classic Malachanidate (did we just make up a word? You bet). As seen from Malachi Richardson‚Äôs torrid run in the 2016 NCAA Tournament, his stock rose high enough that he could become a first round pick, despite pre-tournament notions that he would return for his sophomore season.
Both Tyus Battle and Oshae Brissett certainly benefited from extra games on the biggest stage. Now, the question for both of them looms: Will they decide to enter their names in the NBA Draft or return to a much-improved Syracuse squad?
There are a couple of things to consider in both players decisions. First is the relatively new rule that allows players to enter their names in the draft, work out for teams, but return to college. This can happen if, and only if, they do not sign an agent. Once a player signs an agent, they lose their NCAA eligibility. Second is their postgame comments following the Duke loss. Both players did not provide a clear cut answer for their futures. But keep in mind the emotion of the game and the fact that this is not on the forefront of their minds.
Before this season, Battle seemed like a shoe-in to enter his name in the 2018 Draft. But as the regular season came to a close, Battle seemed to slip off draft boards and seem like a more suitable 2019 pick. This is straight blasphemy. Battle carried a middle of the pack team in the nation‚Äôs best conference into the NCAA Tournament. Syracuse‚Äôs appearance in the Big Dance allowed Battle to showcase his knack for big shots in crunch time. But during the regular season, the sophomore was one of the best players in the conference. If you remove Bonzie Colson‚Äôs limited sample size, he was third in the conference in scoring at 19.2 points per game. That‚Äôs despite playing for one of the nation‚Äôs most stagnant offenses.
Battle took giant steps forward from last year to this year, which is exactly what was needed for him to maintain his draft position as a potential first round pick. At this point, scouts know what type of player he can be at the next level. The only question mark surrounding his game, as well as every Syracuse prospect ever, is how will his defense translate in the NBA‚Äôs man-to-man style. Another year in school will not answer that question. It will only put miles on his body that has already been heavily taxed after leading the nation in minutes per game. The only thing that may hold Battle back is the desire for a national championship. But given the flukey structure of the NCAA Tournament where the best team is not always crowned the champion (see 2018 Virginia), there is nothing left for him to prove after an appearance in this year‚Äôs NCAA Tournament.
Verdict: Enters his name and signs an agent.
Unlike Battle‚Äôs seemingly black and white case, Brissett‚Äôs is more of a gray area. Before the NCAA Tournament, you could say with about 95 percent certainty that the freshman would be back in Orange next season. But after a tournament run where he averaged a near double-double of 17 points and 9.2 rebounds, all of that might change. Brissett modeled a consistent game against some of the best players in the country.
The knock on Brissett‚Äôs game throughout the year has been his jump shot. But that changed dramatically over the course of the year. Down the stretch, Brissett turned himself into a reliable jump shooter, including an 8-for-15 stretch from three against UNC and Arizona State. Also, NBA teams may see potential to grow in that area and take an early chance on him before he turns into a possible lottery pick. Many NBA stars entered the league without a jump shot, but developed one as their careers progressed. My favorite Brissett comparison is Jimmy Butler, and that has been the exact case with his pro career.
But of course, there‚Äôs this.
üëÄ Oshae Brissett‚Äôs Instagram story: pic.twitter.com/GSh3EGXLsQ
— Orange Fizz (@OrangeFizz) March 26, 2018
Don‚Äôt buy 100 percent into this yet, but that‚Äôs certainly an encouraging sign for Syracuse fans.
Verdict: Enters his name and doesn‚Äôt sign an agent.