Sport Syracuse's Frank Howard is the Nation's Most Underrated Point Guard

06:20  07 december  2017
06:20  07 december  2017 Source:

Ten best early-season college basketball games to watch

  Ten best early-season college basketball games to watch College basketball’s season is starting to hum as it moves closer to hitting its stride. We’re still weeks away from the highs of conference rivals in packed gyms, prepping for March match-ups. That being said, most top teams aren’t just playing a soft schedule until midseason arrives. Every coach knows that a strong non-conference schedule is essential for building a tournament resume and for keeping your team sharp through the season. The slate over the next month or so features a deep catalog of games that will teach us something important about both teams and the college hoops landscape as a whole. These are the kinds of games that help transition from the uncertainty of preseason rankings to a better understanding of which teams have Final Four hopes. Here’s a look at the 10 best early-season games to watch. 10. Oklahoma at Wichita State, Dec. 16 Powerful mid-majors like Wichita State usually don’t have an easy time wooing top-level programs into true road games. When they are capable of bringing in a tough test to campus, they need to take advantage and get a win. The Shockers can beat anyone in the nation on any given day. Point guard Landry Shamet is a floor general, surrounded by scoring talent at every position. At the Maui Invitational, Wichita State took care of business in the first several rounds before going toe-to-toe with Notre Dame. The Shockers lost that game in the final seconds, in what felt like a preview of an Elite Eight game.

The Syracuse Orange were grateful to have a point guard who has able to work the pick and roll to perfection as he got in the lane with ease, having options Gillon will no longer be wearing orange next winter, but his shoes will be filled by the player he replaced ten games into the season: Frank Howard .

"As my game matured and I started showing more attributes of a point guard , I had some coaches come up to me and say, 'You're going to be a point guard .' Syracuse recruit Frank Howard at the Mary Kline Classic in West Orange NJ.

Howard posted 15 points in the Orange's loss to Kansas.

If you were unsure what to expect from the Syracuse men's basketball team in 2017-18, you were certainly not alone.

There were two things you could count on from the Orange: (1) Head coach Jim Boeheim would be back for his 432nd season on the bench -- sorry, I meant his 42nd season -- and (2) his team would be using that vaunted 2-3 zone defense that has helped 'Cuse earn a national championship and five Final Four appearances in Boeheim's career.

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Gallery: Syracuse basketball point guards . Comment. Frank Howard had a higher assist rate in many fewer minutes than John Gillon, who was a better overall shooter and a much , much better free-throw shooter.

And yet, following Syracuse ' s 60-57 win over Georgia Tech Saturday, that was exactly the case for Syracuse backup point guard Frank Howard . TNIAAM Roundtable: What are you looking forward to most about Syracuse basketball this season? Syracuse ’ s Eric Dungey should be top-5

But everything else -- from how successful the Orange would be, to who would be most responsible for that success on the court -- was a question mark.

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A lot changed for Syracuse between last season and this season. Six of the top eight scorers from the 2017 NIT squad are gone, including NBA draft pick Tyler Lydon and All-ACC guard Andrew White III. And for the first time in a couple of decades, Boeheim is coaching without Mike Hopkins by his side. The longtime assistant and one-time (still likely) heir apparent took the head coaching job at Washington. Suddenly, Syracuse's 2016 NCAA Final Four run seems like a generation ago.

With familiar faces like Duke and North Carolina expected to hold their familiar places atop the conference, Syracuse entered this season as a mystery.

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Head coach Jim Boeheim made a scholarship offer on Saturday to Class of 2017 Athlete Institute point guard Howard Washington. Washington is a teammate of incoming Syracuse forward Oshae Brissett.

Read More . With O’Shea Brissett and Frank Howard also returning, ‘Cuse will have all three of its leading scorers back. While O’Shea Brissett is a future pro, this year’ s Syracuse team doesn’t have the Anthony Davis-level (or even Jahlil Okafor-level) talent to makeup for shortcomings at point guard .

Eight games into the schedule, the Orange are 7-1, following Tuesday's 72-63 win over UConn at Madison Square Garden. A lot of that success is thanks to junior point guard Frank Howard having a breakout season.

Howard is averaging 14.3 points points, 6.0 assists and 2.2 steals in over 34 minutes per game. As a sophomore, he was playing only 16 minutes a night as a part-time starter with averages of 4.5 points, 3.6 assists and 1.2 steals. If college basketball had a Most Improved Player award, Howard would be an early-season front-runner.

How important is Howard to Syracuse? Three times in the team's first eight games, Howard played the full 40 minutes. In one of those nights without rest, he scored a season-high 25 points in a win over Toledo; another time he posted 15 points, 10 assists, seven steals and five rebounds in a win over Maryland.

Boeheim apparently doesn't even take Howard out of the game when he's having a bad game. In the win over UConn, Howard played 39 minutes despite having his worst performance of the season, shooting 1-of-10 from the field and committing nine turnovers.

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Syracuse , N.Y. -- Syracuse point guard Frank Howard doesn't love talking about last season. Syracuse coach Jim Boeheim likes it less. Whether Howard can maintain his level of play this time around will be a huge factor in Syracuse ' s success, and will likely be one of the most scrutinized

Syracuse ' s Class of 2015 Frank Howard , who made a verbal commitment to the Orange, was in Burlington, NJ, on April 19 with his Team Takeover. Recruited by many college basketball programs as a combination guard , Howard gives the Orange flexibility at the point , where he will concentrate

In Syracuse's loss to Kansas -- the No. 1 team in the country according to BennettRank -- Howard was one of the Orange's bright spots. He had 15 points and seven assists, and could've put up a double-double if not for a few dropped passes and missed shots by his teammates.

Drawing comparisons from the lineage of Syracuse point guards, Howard is closer to Lazarus Sims or Michael Carter-Williams than he is to Gerry McNamara or Pearl Washington. Howard is big for the position at 6-foot-5. He is more of a passer and playmaker than a scorer and shooter. He excels at penetrating the defense with smooth and efficient moves, then setting up teammates with slick yet simple passes.

Defensively, Howard is solid in the zone scheme and uses quick hands and anticipation to force turnovers. With Howard leading the team (and the conference) in steals, Syracuse ranks fourth in the ACC in points allowed and 46th nationally in Adjusted Defensive Efficiency (according to KenPom).

Syracuse was predicted to finish 10th in the ACC standings in the conference's preseason poll, with not one player making the preseason All-ACC squad. A lot of media outlets had the Orange making a return trip to the NIT in 2018. While it's obviously early in the campaign, Howard, sophomore guard Tyus Battle (20.3 ppg) and freshman forward Oshae Brissett (12.8 points, 9.8 rebounds) are making strong cases for some All-ACC recognition, while 'Cuse overall looks like an NCAA tournament team.

College basketball has no shortage of star point guards. Veterans like Kansas' Devonte' Graham and Villanova's Jalen Brunson, and freshmen phenoms like Oklahoma's Trae Young and Alabama's Collin Sexton are rightfully getting their due and their hype.

Howard may be the nation's most underrated point guard, leading the charge for one of the nation's most underrated teams.

NEXT: College Basketball: Seton Hall, Nevada Enter AP Top 25 Rankings, Baylor, USC Tumble

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