AP
Syracuse's Tyus Battle, second from left, looks around head coach Jim Boeheim to watch the action against Pittsburgh during the first half of an NCAA college basketball game in the Atlantic Coast Conference tournament in Charlotte, N.C., Wednesday, March 13, 2019. Battle did not play in the game due to an injury. (AP Photo/Chuck Burton)

SALT LAKE CITY — Rudy Gobert and anybody else in the NBA who preaches the importance of defense might have a hard time defending something Syracuse coach Jim Boeheim said during his NCAA tournament media session Wednesday.

Boeheim, now in his 43rd season as Syracuse's head coach, explained how he framed possible concerns a recruit might have about playing in his defensive scheme — his vaunted version of the 2-3 zone.

Boeheim's quick response to ease apprehensions: "I say the NBA drafts for one reason: offense."

The longer version might not sit well with those in the NBA who believe defense is a more important skill than offense.

"The NBA has never drafted a player for defense — at any position, even at center. Like when they drafted Tim Duncan or David Robinson, or Olajuwon or Shaq. They didn't get one of those guys because of their defense," Boeheim said.

"They didn't draft Steph Curry, James Harden, LeBron James — go down the list — they didn't draft one guy because of defense. They draft because of offense. We had more first-round picks in the old Big East because they draft guys based on their offense."

That's Boeheim's story, and he's sticking to it.

"That's what we tell recruits," he said, "and that's the truth."

NOT PLAYING: Syracuse guard Frank Howard scored a career-high 28 points against Duke in the ACC Tournament, but he will not be available for the Orange against Baylor. The school announced Wednesday that the senior has been suspended indefinitely for violating athletic department policy.

"He won't be here with us (Thursday)," Boeheim said, refusing to say who'll start in his place.

Guard Tyus Battle filled in for Howard when he missed the first four games of the season with a lower-body injury. Battle, on the watch list for multiple national awards, is back after missing the ACC Tournament.

"We have played without players before," Battle said. "Foul trouble, you have to play without players. Injuries, you have to play without players. If we play our game, we’ll be fine."

Comment on this story

NOTES: Syracuse won the first and only two meetings against Baylor — 94-71 at the Dome in 2006, and 74-67 in the 2013 Maui Invitational. ... The Orange made it to the Sweet 16 last year before losing to Duke, and the Bears also advanced to the third round in their most recent tournament appearance before falling to South Carolina in 2017. ... Four projected Baylor starters have missed a significant amount — or all — of the season. Makai Mason was out six games with a toe injury, King McClure missed five games with a knee injury, and Jake Lindsey (hip) and Tristan Clark (knee) aren't playing.