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College Basketball: Syracuse Orange Regular Season Awards Heading into the ACC Tournament
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12 Mar 2019 05:36 PM EST

-by Daniel Mogollon, Staff Writer; Image: Syracuse guard Tyus Battle penetrates against Duke. (Image Source: Brett Carlsen/Getty Images)

With the college basketball regular season behind us and the conference tournaments underway, here’s a look at the 2018-19 Syracuse Orange:

MVP: Guard Tyus Battle, Junior

While he’s down two points per game from 19.2 PPG to 17.2, Tyus Battle remains one of the premiere scorers in the ACC. In his second season, as “the man” for the Orange, the New Jersey native has developed into a more efficient, better all-around player. He’s an improved shooter (39.9 percent to 43.2) who excels at getting to the rim with a deadly step-back jumper. One-on-one, Battle can create his own shot and is a very tough cover. He’s athletic and has good size for a guard. With 3.3 rebounds and 2.5 assists per game he’s set career highs while doing a better job of protecting the ball (2.4 turnovers per to 1.7) despite increased ball handling responsibilities. Of late, Battle has taken over the point guard position more than he has prior in his three seasons at Syracuse. Nevertheless, Battle remains first and foremost a scorer.

Top Newcomer: Forward Elijah Hughes, Junior

Not your classic Syracuse forward, Elijah Hughes is built more like a guard but his addition has provided a big boom for the Orange offensive attack as a complimentary scorer. Averaging 13.4 points per game he’s second only to Battle. His 4.4 rebounds per game are good for third. A streaky shooter, Hughes gives Syracuse the three-point threat they often lacked last season. He’s averaging 35.4 percent from beyond the arc and has made a team high 75 triples, well ahead of Frank Howard who is second (probably not for long) with 43. He’s scored at least 15 points, 17 times this season.

Freshman of the Year: Guard Buddy Boeheim, Freshman

Early on in the season, Buddy Boeheim struggled to find his range and looked overwhelmed at times, now fans in the Carrier Dome rise in anticipation of a Buddy Bullseye. Point guard Jalen Carey was more highly-rated coming out of high school, but as his minutes have declined, Boeheim has solidified himself as part of the rotation and he has even begun to eat some of Frank Howard’s minutes. While many freshman fold as conference play begins, the coach’s son has gotten better and better as the season has gone along. A sharp shooter, Boeheim made just 8-of-36 three-point attempts (22.2 percent) in out-of-conference play while he’s knocked down an impressive 33-of-81 (40.7 percent) against ACC foes. He’s their best shooter and helps floor spacing.

Sixth Man of the Year: Forward Marek Dolezaj, Sophomore

The sophomore from Slovakia is often the first man off the bench and leads the reserves with his 21.5 minutes per game. A jack-of-all trades type, Marek Dolezaj contributes in many different ways. The 6’10 forward averages 4.2 points and 3.6 rebounds per game. While he’s not great at any one skill, Dolezaj can score a little (inside and out), he’s a very solid passer, and despite his slight frame isn’t afraid to step in and take a charge (even when it’s Zion Williamson). Where he’s most improved is as a perimeter shooter as the forward has made 38.5 percent of his three-point attempts. A glue-type player who always hustles, Dolezaj brings more to the table than the numbers do justice.

Defensive Player of the Year: Center Paschal Chukwu, Senior

The Orange lack a true elite defender/stopper type with Paschal Chukwu arguably their most-important defender simply because of his length. At 7’2” he brings elite size which is invaluable in the middle of Jim Boeheim’s famed two-three zone. Not the most-nimble of defenders, Chukwu’s wingspan allows him to be active and get his hands on the basketball. Despite logging just 20.2 minutes per game, the former transfer from Providence averages an impressive 1.7 blocks per game, which doesn’t factor in all the shots he alters and deters because of his size.

Daniel Mogollon is a member of the Pro Football Writers of America and the Football Writers Association of America. He is also a voter for the Thorpe and the Rotary Lombardi Award, as well as the Latino Sports MVP Awards. You can reach him via email: danmogollon@gmail.com.

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