Oshae Brissett could be Syracuse’s difference maker in the NCAA Tournament

first_imgThree times against Virginia on March 4, Oshae Brissett shot the jumpers he’d spent hours in the gym working to avoid. A left-wing 3, a right-wing 3 and a right-elbow jumper. They all traveled like short line drives, hitting off front rim.After the game, Syracuse head coach Jim Boeheim was asked if Brissett’s bad offensive night — 2-of-8 from the floor, six points — had seriously affected the outcome.“He hasn’t played well offensively the whole year, so I don’t think that had anything to do with the game,” Boeheim said. Brissett, a sophomore, is one of Syracuse’s (20-13, 10-8 Atlantic Coast) most talented players. At times in his freshman season, he was spoken about as a first-round NBA Draft pick. A year later, he’ll occasionally pop up with a double-double and showcase that potential. He knows his quick first-step can beat defenders. He’s said that scoring inside can solve a shooting slump. Still, other times, Brissett has settled for jumpers or hasn’t committed to crashing the defensive glass. He’s shot 39 percent from the field, and his scoring average has declined from 14.9 to 12.4 points per game.As SU opens its win-or-go-home NCAA Tournament with Baylor (19-13, 10-8 Big 12) on Thursday in Salt Lake City, Utah Brissett’s production — or lack thereof — might swing Syracuse’s season. Baylor scores at a top-30 efficiency, so Brissett can’t be inefficient when Syracuse tries to keep up. AdvertisementThis is placeholder text“It’s where we want to be at all season,” Brissett said of the tournament. “Right now we have a perfect opportunity to show who we are.”Anna Henderson | Digital Design EditorEarlier this season, it seemed Brissett shifted the narrative that he couldn’t shoot from the perimeter. He worked before and after practices with Syracuse associate head coach Adrian Autry to avoid line-drive shots and to consistently jump straight up and down when he fired. And while the occasional spurt early on showed promise — he shot above 50 percent in three of SU’s first seven games — he’s fallen off. In Syracuse’s last nine games, Brissett has scored in single-digits five times. The shots practiced in the empty gyms, high-arcing and above the shooting gun’s netting, disappeared. His elbow jumpers have clanked off the rim repeatedly. Occasionally, the improved release returns. At Clemson on March 9, Brissett made both his 3s. Catch-and-shoot situations lead to Brissett’s best outcomes. It’s when he waits, dribbles and pulls out a fancy move that it most often goes awry.“Oshae’s had trouble scoring,” Boeheim said earlier this season. “He just can’t make shots. So you don’t have to play him out there, you play him for the drive. He has struggled shooting the ball from day one really this year. It’s just the way it’s been.”His inconsistency has carried into other parts of his game. Brissett may be Syracuse’s best rebounder, yet he admitted after the loss to Clemson that he didn’t always crash the defensive boards. Then in SU’s next game, against Pittsburgh on March 13, Brissett played his lowest minute total (24) of the season despite having no fouls. He was simply ineffective, and Boeheim preferred Marek Dolezaj at the 4.Brissett showed promise against Duke in the ACC quarterfinals, though. He knocked down a 3, made his first five foul shots and scored 14 points while battling Zion Williamson on the glass to pull down seven rebounds. Brissett has stayed true to the idea that if his approach stays the same, good results will come. After last Thursday’s Duke loss, Brissett said of his mindset: “I’m just gonna keep doing that, and I’m not really gonna change who I am.” And people have spoken time and again about how talented Brissett can be. In last year’s March Madness, Brissett averaged 17 points and 9.25 rebounds. As his second NCAA Tournament gets underway, now would be a good time to show that talent once more.“I’m excited to get back in there, play in front of everybody,” Brissett said. “I feel like it’s a great stage to show what you’re made of.” Published on March 19, 2019 at 10:43 pm Contact Billy: wmheyen@syr.edu | @Wheyen3 Commentscenter_img Facebook Twitter Google+last_img

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