Miami’s Bruce Brown was the toughest omission from this year’s All-Freshman team. However, it is unfortunate that there could not be seven roster spots for this postseason honor, because there was another worthy freshman, too.
Tyus Battle of Syracuse quietly put together one of the best rookie campaigns in the league this season.
Battle’s performance was lost in the shuffle of an up-and-down season that largely focused on the team’s defensive woes and Jim Boeheim’s opinion of a certain North Carolina-based city. Syracuse fans, however, have something to get excited about with Battle for next season.
More will be expected of the former top-40 recruit; Syracuse has not missed back-to-back NCAA Tournaments since 2008. The program has missed back-to-back NCAA Tournaments just twice since Boeheim took over way back in 1976. In 2017-18, Battle could be the most important piece for Syracuse making a return trip to the Big Dance.
Syracuse had the nation’s No. 12 spot-up offense this season, per Synergy Sports. The Orange scored 1.09 points per possession on spot-ups while shooting 42.3 percent, which was the best mark of any ACC team. Battle was a major force in this department: 1.21 points per possession (No. 9 in the conference), 45.7 field-goal percentage.
He found a groove playing off of Syracuse’s other offensive talents, too. According to Synergy, Battle shot 42 percent and scored 1.26 points per possession on catch-and-shoots. That was good for 20th in the ACC in 2016-17.
KenPom compares his freshman season to what Gary Harris and Nik Stauskas produced for Michigan State and Michigan, respectively, in the 2012-13 season. Both of those guys now are at least rotation players in the NBA.
Battle averaged 11.3 points per game — the seventh-highest total among the conference’s freshmen. The only two players on Syracuse’s roster to score and shoot more than Battle this season will not be back next season. Three-point bomber Andrew White III finalized his eligibility; Tyler Lydon plans to enter the NBA Draft and will hire an agent.
Battle recorded a usage rate of just 17.1 percent, according to KenPom. That is a below-average figure and something you can expect to change in his sophomore season. Battle will get more opportunities to operate in isolation — an emerging facet of his game.
Per Synergy, Battle used 40 isolation possessions this season, which was the most on the team. He shot 42.5 percent. Only Lydon and Taurean Thompson shot a higher percentage in isolation, but they did so on far fewer possessions. Battle also only turned the ball over on 12.2 percent of his isolations.
Overall this season, Battle did well taking care of the ball, posting a turnover rate of just 12.9 percent, per KenPom. He has the makings of an outstanding prospect, and if he can maintain that level of efficiency as his utility increases, then Syracuse may have a star in the making.
Lydon and White are not the only two players departing. John Gillon, DaJuan Coleman and Tyler Roberson have all used up their eligibility. Which means a lot will fall on the shoulders of Battle and Thompson.