It has been a rough few years for the Syracuse Orange men’s basketball team and this season has been no exception. The Orange currently sit at 15-8 overall and 9-7 in the ACC. Jim Boeheim’s team also sits on the outside looking in for the NCAA tournament, according to Joe Lunardi. The Orange find themselves in a very familiar position sitting on the tourney bubble. It has been a long time since the Orange have been a lock for the tournament. You have to go back to 2014 and the days of CJ Fair and company for that. Syracuse has made some noise in the tournament recently. Michael Gbinije and Malachai Richardson led a 10-seeded Orange team to an improbable final-four run in 2016. Tyus Battle and Oshae Brisset helped the Orange upset Michigan State and reach the Sweet 16 in 2018. Even those years, the Orange faithful were hanging on the edge of their seat on selection Sunday.
And all of that brings us to the 2020-2021 Syracuse Orange.
The Orange have more scoring this season than they have had in years past. Often times, the scoring would fall on the shoulders of 2 or 3 players, but this season, they have multiple players who can fill up a score sheet. They have four players averaging double figures, led by Buddy Boeheim with 16 ppg. Right behind Boeheim is Illinois transfer Alan Griffin with 15.3 ppg. Quincy Guerrier comes in third on this list. Guerrier is one of the primary candidates for the most improved player in the ACC. As a freshman, Guerrier avraged 6.9 ppg, but has risen then all the way up to 14.5 ppg in his sophomore season. He is one of Syracuse’s most important players as he is by far the best rebounder on the team. The Orange lack a true big man as Bourama Sidibe has missed most of the season and rebounding is hard to come by when you play a 2-3 zone.
One other major positive from the Orange this season is the emergence of Kadary Richmond. Richmond was their top ranked recruit from this past offseason and he is paying immediate dividends. Richmond leads the Orange in assists per game with 3.3 and steals per game with 1.9 despite playing at least 5 minutes less than Boeheim and other starter Joe Girard III. Jim Boeheim loves to have tall and long guards at the top of his zone. Think Michael Gbinije and Michael Carter-Williams. He has been getting more playing time as of late and has helped the Orange get big wins over UNC and Clemson in their last two matchups. Richmond is the team’s best ball handler, and needs to be getting as much playing time as possible.
Like I mentioned above, the Orange struggle immensely with rebounding. Rebounding out of 2-3 zone is difficult already, but pairing that with Marek Dolezaj playing the middle of the zone is an opposing team’s dream. Dolezaj is an excellent player both offensively and defensively, but is 6’10” and only 201 pounds. He simply cannot match up with players like Day’Ron Sharpe from UNC.
With their lack of a true big man comes a lack of a lot of inside scoring. The Orange have not had a big man who could consistently score the basketball since Rakeem Christmas. Therefore, they need to rely heavily on the three ball. That may not be the worse idea when you have players like Buddy Boeheim, Joe Girard, and Alan Griffin. However, both Girard and Boeheim are streaky shooters and can leave you scratching your head. Girard in particular can be a very frustrating player to watch. His shot selection is poor, but his range is the gym. When he is open and can set his feet, he can knock down any shot from anywhere on the floor. However, he sometimes tries to do too much and takes poor shots or dribbles to long and coughs up a turnover. You didn’t really see those kinds of mistakes from Girard as a freshman last season, and you definitely do not see that from Kadary Richmond.
It has been a rough stretch for the Syracuse Orange basketball teamc as of late. They have had some major recruiting losses ranging from missing out on Quade Green and Isaiah Stewart and having top recruits Darius Bazley and Dior Johnson decommit. They have not been ranked in the top 25 in many years, but they still have the ability to beat anyone on any given night. The Orange have an exciting signee in Benny Williams while Kadary Richmond and Quincy Guerrier look to lead the Syracuse Orange basketball team down the stretch this season and next. It will be interesting to see just how long Jim Boeheim hangs around and who will take over once he decides to move on. Maybe they can lure Mike Hopkins back from Washington. The Orange will be no lower than the 8th seed in this year’s ACC tournament and can make some noise to bolster their tournament resume. However, Orange fans will find themselves sweating it out once again on selection Sunday.
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