Then and Now - basketball, 2022 - Part 1 | Syracusefan.com

Then and Now - basketball, 2022 - Part 1

SWC75

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This is my annual look back at statements I made in my pre-season SU basketball preview with the hindsight of what happened during the season. I’ll add in a look at next season as it appears now.
My pre-season comments are in italics and my current comments are not.

THE SITUATION

I recently called into one of the local radio shows. They were discussing the expectations for this year’s SU basketball team and what criteria should be used. One guy asked “Do you see this as a Final Four team? Elite 8? Sweet 16? I called in to say that you really can’t judge a season by NCAA tournament results because it’s a single-elimination tournament where every team can beat you, (ask Virginia)…. You can lose NCAA tournament games for all same reasons you can lose regular season games: bad match-ups, injuries, foul trouble, the ball goes around and out rather than around and in, etc. The regular season where you play all kinds of teams in all kinds of games and can have some off nights but come back to excel in other games, is a better measure of a teams’ quality. I argued that the best way to look at it is that what we want out of the regular season is to be curious, rather than nervous on selection Sunday and hopeful after that. The radio guy pronounced that “backwards”, saying “Most people judge seasons by what happens in the NCAA tournament.”

Actually people judge the team from time the season starts and they care very much what happens in the regular season. SU fans have been complaining for years that we’ve been in a rut of having double figure loss seasons, that we keep finishing in the middle of the ACC when we are supposed to be an elite program and that we are “always on the bubble”. Their greatest desire is to win another national championship, especially since so many schools we consider ourselves to be the equal of or superior to have surpassed our relatively meager total of one. Mediocre regular seasons make us feel farther and farther away from that goal…. We long for the types of teams we
had a decade ago, when we had three teams achieve that #1 ranking in six years and won 28, 27 and 30 games, (and went to a Final Four), in the years we didn’t. We also want to continue our nation-leading streak of 51 consecutive winning seasons, there short of UCLA’s record of 54. It would be a tragedy to lose that streak before we get the record. Once we lose that streak, we’ll never see it again… But we’d really like to have a team that proves early on that they are one of the best teams in the country, breaks into the rankings early and stays there all year and allows us to dream of great post-season success for four months before we actually find out what happens.

The big difference between 2009-14 and 2015-21 are that in the first era we were strong at both ends of the court and the defense and offense complimented each other. In the second era, we’ve tended to be good on defense or on offense but not both. We’ve found out that the defensive teams tend to do better getting to the NCAA tournament and winning games there but neither is as good as being strong on both ends…. So I think SU fans care very much about the regular season. Then they will care very much about the post season. If the regular season doesn’t go well, they will spend four months griping about it. If they aren’t griping, they will dream of a Hollywood ending in which Jim Boeheim and his two sons cut down the nets at the end, (and give Julie a snip). It will be a lot more fun if the regular
season allows them to spend those four months dreaming of that moment.

We started poorly, losing-badly- to Colgate for the first time since Kennedy was president, getting clobbered at Atlantis, rallying slightly against lesser competition, bobbling away some winnable games, finally going a sort of hot streak, then coming up short in some more games. When the dust settled we had our first losing season – by one game – since Johnson was president. We were weak defensively at worst, mediocre at best. Our ball handling and passing were inconsistent. We had trouble getting shots off against aggressive defenses.

Discontent built all season long, much of it valid, some of it over-the-top but still emotionally understandable. People were saying that Jim Boeheim no longer cared if we won or not or that he only cared that his sons could play entire games and had structured the roster to allow for that at the expense of the program. I invite anyone who believes that to watch his press conference after the Miami game in the Dome, where we blew a 10 point lead with 2 ½ minutes to go:

The team did improve as the season progressed, as did the ACC itself. Conferences get downrated if their top teams are rebuilding and if they lose some early games to other conferences. Then their teams start playing each other and have no way to increase their ranking because they aren’t playing ranked teams. As we enter the Sweet 16, the ACC has the best record in the tournament at 9-2 and is tied for the most steams still alive with three. Syracuse, playing without it’s starting center who had become probably the best player on the team, almost beat all three those teams in the final couple of weeks of the season, losing to Miami by 3, the North Carolina in overtime and to Duke by 9 in a game where we were also without our leading scorer and yet was even with 3 minutes left. Somebody had posted that “we don’t have the players to compete with the teams we are playing” and yet we were obviously competitive with Sweet 16 teams even when we didn’t have all our players.

And yet we lost those games. We were 2-7 in games decided by 5 points or less or in overtime. We seemed to run out of gas and to have trouble handling the ball or getting shots off against late game pressure. We didn’t deserve to win any of the games we lost. We were what our record said we were and we were a good deal short of what Syracuse fans have been used to during the Boeheim Era. The thought of contending for conference or national titles seems to be getting farther and farther away, causing many to conclude that such goals will continue to recede until we have a different coaching staff. There are assertions that another losing season was coming up next year and if Jim Boeheim stayed as coach or was replaced by one of his assistants, things will just get progressively worse. No one can know those things for sure but they are getting harder to argue with.

At least we know that the regular season is as important to SU fans as the post season. They want success in both. This season was not much fun and if next season starts out the same way, it won’t be much fun, either.
 

OrangeAl

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You're right on. We could have pulled out a winning season by winning one or two of those close games, but we didn't deserve to win any of them. We folded at the end of tight games. Our lack of poise against pressure defenses exposed our two big deficiencies: lack of quickness and lack of depth.
 

SWC75

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PART TWO: THE TEAM

So do we have a team that will allow us to dream of cutting down the nets – or one that will at least make us curious, rather than nervous on Selection Sunday? I don’t know. I do think we will have enough talent to be a Syracuse team – one that continues the streak of winning seasons and is capable of beating anyone they play.

It will be a team that lost some strengths from last season but also gained some. Each team is different and that’s going to be more true than ever now with the wide open transfer portal. Not only can we lose players to the pros, to academics, personal problems and injuries. Now they can just decide to leave and won’t have to sit out a year. Of course, we can also gain talent, not only from high schools, the international ball and, junior colleges but also from players transferring from other schools. JB and his staff wasted no time in taking advantage of this, bringing in three transfers and a top high school recruit to replace no less than five guys with eligibility left who departed from last year’s team. These days you can’t build a team: you assemble it from available parts. I’ve always said that a college basketball team is like a jigsaw puzzle where you don’t have all the pieces and you have to fit them together as best you can to try to get something resembling a complete picture. We’ve lost some speed and athleticism but gained size and firepower, traits which might be more useful in the Boeheim zone defense and pick-and-roll offense.


Well, I certainly wasn’t nervous on Selection Sunday. In fact, I slept through it. But this didn’t come about the way I wanted it to. Our season was over and March Madness had become just another major event on the yearly sporting calendar, like the Masters, the Kentucky Derby or the Indy 500. I would watch the event as aficionado of the sport but with no special angst or pleasure because I had no rooting interest in any team beyond wanting our opponents do well so we would look better, (or less bad), and wanting to see close games and another first time champion.

We certainly were not able to compete against anyone we played at the beginning of the season. We didn’t even compete with Colgate. Pressure defenses like those of VCU and Villanova and Miami in the second half took us out of our offense and anyone with a strong inside player were undefendable. Even teams that were not notably good from outside would set season highs for three pointers against us. Being tall made little difference when we were slow. You’ve got to “get there with the mostest” and having the tallest made no difference if you couldn’t get there. And against national championship contenders like Auburn, Villanova. and Duke you could see the difference between us now and the sort of teams we used to have.

And yet, we somehow improved as the season progressed to the point where we were winning games – some of them by substantial margins - and were competing with everyone except Duke. Getting another winning record and even making the NCAA tournament seemed possible. Then Jesse Edwards, who was becoming our star center went down, followed by Symir Torrance, our back-up and only true point guard ten Benny Williams, our disappointing blue-chip forwards, after he had his one big game against Duke. Finally, our leading scorer, Buddy Boeheim, inexplicably threw a punch at an opponent and got himself suspended for the final game, also against Duke. Yet we lost to North Carlina in overtime, had a 10 point lead late in the Miami fame and were tied against Duke late in that final game. With better luck, we might have obtained our twin goals and, even in defeat, you had to be impressed with the player’s competitive fortitude and the coaching staff’s ability to put together this year’s jigsaw puzzle, (even if you blame them for choosing the pieces).

They will have a different set of pieces next year. The big issue is: will we get Cole Swider back, which would give us a shot at putting together a pretty good veteran starting line-up of Torrance, Girard, Williams, Swider and Edwards, hoping that Benny will find himself as a sophomore, and then back it up with the 5 man recruiting class. After last year’s mass exodus, people are nervous that we could not only lose Swider but also maybe Benny and Frank Anselem but I haven’t heard anything that even rises to a rumor about them. If we do lose Cole, who told JB that he was only going to be here one year but then indicated he might change his mind, we could have two freshman, Paul Carey and Maliq Brown, battling for his spot while a third, Chris Bunch, pushes Benny at the other. That would a totally unproven group at this level but could be a very talented one. We should be a lot quicker and could be even taller and deeper and still have enough firepower to outscore people. But off of Benny’s example, (as well as Matthew Moyer, Jalen Carey, Brycen Goodine, Woody Newton, etc.), relying on freshmen to be big contributors is a serious concern. Don’t expect JB to pull too many rabbits out of the transfer portal. Last year’s haul was his own son, a guy who grew up here and a guy he had heavily recruited who went to another northeastern school. That’s not exactly using the portal as a menu. He said recently that he’d look into the transfer portal if he lost someone he expected would stay. Would Cole Swider qualify? Stay tuned.
 

SWC75

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PART 3

CENTERS

I was all excited about our depth at the center position last year – four of them! They wound up hardly playing so much of what I put here is taken from last year’s preview.


A lot of that was because of the state of health and youth of the 4 centers. Bourama Sidibie’s 2020-21 season essentially lasted 4 minutes. Frank Anselem came down, (we assume) with Covid and hardly played. John Bol Ajak also hardly played but simply looked over-matched. The exception was Jesse Edwards, who came on strong as that year progressed and appeared to make a huge difference in what been a weak defensive team in our late-season run to the Sweet 16.

But the biggest reason we didn’t play the four centers is that a spot had to be found for Marek Dolezaj, a multi-talented forward through which the offense ran most efficiently. He could also rebound and block an occasional shot and get the opposing team’s center away from the basket with his mobility. On top of that our two most statistically productive players, Quincy Guerrier and Alan Griffin were forwards and they had to be on the court. So we went with a three-forward line-up. It wasn’t the first time Jim Boeheim has gone to a ‘stretch four’ instead of a true center in recent years. It started with Chris McCullough, then Tyler Lydon, then Marek, who was really a stretch three. I think JB likes the versatility that gives him. He even pined for Marek, (who could have come back), in one interview this year. But it tends to the development of our true centers and weaken the interior of our defense. This year he had to invest time in the true centers and it paid off.

John Bol Ajak 6-10 215 eligibility year: sophomore

John Bol, (Ajak is the last name), was the least highly recruited of the four centers. “Ajak not only came here from the Sudan by way of Kenya but missed a lot of time with an achilles injury and a hip injury…2-4-7 rated him 3 stars, the 480th best player in the country and the 76th best center…” He played in 10 games last year, a total of 51 minutes. He scored 2 points, grabbed 4 rebounds and committed 7 fouls. Then he hit the transfer portal only to decide to return. I suspect he may not have had any takers


He might not have any takers this year, either. He played 62 minutes, scored 5 points and 14 rebounds but committed 8 fouls. He had tour de farce game against Miami in the Dome when he played 1 minute and, in that time, missed a shot, turned the ball over, committed two fouls and failed to get the key the key rebound of the game and season, even though it came right to him.

Frank Anselem 6-10 210 sophomore

Frank played 26 minutes in four early games, the last on 12/12 vs. Boston College. Then he disappeared. There were rumors that he got hit hard by Covid but no one was really sure, (the University does not announce such things). It’s also been suggested that Frank made a mistake by re-classifying as a high school senior when he wasn’t yet ready to move on to college, (I don’t understand the process but it’s a thing, somehow.)

But he has one thing that can’t be taught: a 7-5 wingspan. The distance between a normal human being’s fingers when the arms are stretched out
is usually very close to his height so Frank has the wingspan of a 7-5 center! He’s also the most athletic of the four centers, so his upside could be enormous. But so far, it’s just an upside, rather than a reality. Assistant Coach Allen Griffin: “We haven’t seen this type of athleticism at this position in a long time in terms of the way he can move and the way he can jump. … He’s gotta work on the motor part, of just playing hard on every possession.”

With Bourama still hurting and John Bol being John Bol, Frank settled into a spot backing up Jesse Edwards. The difference between them was substantial. Edwards developed into an offensive star, scoring 17.3 points per 40 minutes to Frank’s 7.4. Jesse was also a superior ball hawk with 4.0 blocks to 1.5 and 1.6 steals to 0.7. Frank had that big wingspan but played small, often flat-footed. His touted athleticism and ‘length’ never seemed to show itself. Jim Boeheim said that it was the first time in his 46 years he’d had to “tell a player to jump”. (How high can a dead man jump, Jimmy?)

When Jesse went down, the position became Frank’s and he responded with some of big games in the one area he matched Jesse in, rebounding (10.9 for Frank vs. 9.3 for Jesse per 40 minutes) against conference champion Virginia Tech (15), Georgia Tech (10), and Florida State (15). But in the other games, he wert back to being flat-footed Frank.

Still, (assuming he doesn’t fly the coup looking for a starting spot), he’ll be an experienced back-up with real ability and quite a tandem with Jesse next year. The hope is, he’ll blossom in his junior year as Jesse did and being show some of that reach and athletic ability. Maybe even the beginnings of an offensive game could develop. Then, as a senior he’ll be read to take over for Jesse and be the star. No need for a ‘stretch four’ – or a stretch three.

Jesse Edwards 6-11 215 junior

He played limited minutes last year, (2020), but looked promising. He moved well and had an awareness of what was going on around him. He never got credited with an assist but had the best pass of the season, a wrap-around no looker that bounced off Quincy Guerrier’s hands because he couldn’t believe it.”

Jim Boeheim: “He’s got a very good skillset. He can shoot it, pass it very well for a big guy. He’s just not strong enough yet to play. He’s got to get
stronger and that’s going to take time. “In Jesse’s case it’s just physical strength. Nothing else.”

Jesse played in 10 of the first 23 games for a total of 48 minutes. But starting with the Georgia Tech game of 2/27, he played in each of the last 8 games for a total of 112 minutes. When Jesse was in there we had a 7 footer, (Jesse looked clearly taller than our other centers – more than that one inch), and our zone was a much more formidable defense. He actually wasn’t that much of a shot blocker but he’d learned to position his body in front of whoever got into the paint with the ball and raise his arms to
provide a nearly insurmountable object to shoot or pass over or get around. It made a huge difference. JB continued to insist that Jesse ‘wasn’t ready’ but was playing him more and more and he was a key to our post-season run. If he continues to develop and can win the starting position this year, he could make a huge difference.

Jesse showed up this year with a streak of white in his hair, causing me to dub him “the Streak” and his play lived up to it. He was still thinner than the big men he came up against but he was also quicker. He did get the knock of blocking shots and blocked many of them, also making steals. he rebounded well and was a big reason that this was our best team on the boards in years. He was dynamite on the pick and roll play and started scoring points in bunches. He was our first center that played big on both ends of the court since Rakeem Christmas, (or Bourama on those rare occasions when he was healthy).

He scored 21 on Arizona State, 17 on both Auburn and Indiana 22 on Miami, and 19 each against NC State and Louisville. He also had double-doubles against Florida State and Clemson. Then Boston College decided to focus on him, rather than on our jump shooters and effectively took him out of the game, shutting him out on 0 for 3 shooting and 2 rebounds before he fouled out after just 13 minutes of play. They also took him out of the season as he fell heavily on one hand on one play. It was bothering after the game so they took an x-ray and found he had broken his wrist, ending his season.

The defensive attention Jesse got allowed our shooters to hit 46% of their three point shots as we won our fourth straight game to go to 13-11 with hopes still alive of making the Big Dance and the likelihood of extending the winning season streak high. Without Jesse we came up short on both goals, despite a valiant effort against some strong teams at the end of the schedule.

Jesse still has some developing to do. He still needs to get physically stronger. And I felt that, while he was making some big plays with blocks and steals, his sneaker-to-sneaker defense wasn’t as good as the previous year. I didn’t see the plays where he used his height and length to choke off drives, probably because, being surrounded by jump shooters, he had to cover too much territory. In 2020 he had the muscular Quincy Guerrier, the explosive Alan Griffin and the savvy Robert Braswell around him. We didn’t hear may adjectives like those this season with Swider, Girard and the Boeheims around him. Next year he may still have Swider and Girard but he’ll also have Maliq Brown, Peter Carey, Chris Bunch, Symir Torrance, Quadir Copeland and Justin Taylor around him and that could make a big difference.

Bourama Sidibe 6-10 218 super-senior (granted extra year due to Covid)

“When Bourama came here four years ago, he was much shorter than Paschal Chukwu, our 7-2 string bean center but seemed like the more talented player…Many predicted he would become the starting center before the conference season began. His high school tape showed about everything you’d want to see from a center: quick movements, aggressive athleticism, running the court, blocking shots making steals, rebounding and scoring both from the low post and on drives, even a medium range jump shot.
The game looked easy for him:



“But when he got here, it became hard. He developed tendonitis in his knees, which sometimes bothered him so much that he couldn’t play and other times limited his effectiveness. Only occasionally did he show flashes of the talent in that tope. He not only lost much of his mobility but also his jumping ability and 6-10, (if he is that), is not exceptional height for a modern college center. But he showed ‘flashes’ as Greg Robinson would say. The biggest flash was a 18 point, 16 rebound, 3 block effort in 24 minutes at Pittsburgh. That was easily the best he’s played here…But he had trouble not only with his knees but with foul trouble and thus had only rare opportunities to put those kinds of numbers up.”

“Last year, (2020), after off-season surgery he was moving much more freely and as the season progressed the game seemed to slow down for him. He got better at avoiding fouls, which is often a matter of knowing where to be and what’s going on around him. In his last six games he played 25-35 minutes per game and had 6/10/1 against Georgia Tech, 13/10/4 against Pittsburgh, a really impressive 17/15/6 in the Dome loss to North Carolina, 9/12/1 against Boston College, 2/10/2 against Miami, and 12/13/2 in the season-ending rout of the Tar Heels…I’ll take a continuation of the numbers he was putting up in those last six games.”

What we got was Bourama re-injuring his knee just before the first TV time out, 4 minutes into the first game. That was on 11/27. He was supposed to be out for 4 weeks. We played Pittsburgh on 1/16, seven weeks later and he was still unable to play. Pitt’s star, Justin Champagnie was injured December 20th and was supposed to be out 6-8 weeks. He played in the 1/16 game and scored 24 points and pulled down 16 rebounds. SU fans were tearing their hair out. I can only imagine how Bourama felt watching that game. He came back to play 11 minutes against Clemson on 2/6. That was his senior season: 15 minutes, 3 points, 1 rebound, 1 block, 1 turnover, 4 fouls. He didn’t attempt a field goal and was 3 for 6 from the free throw line. His Net Points: -3. Fortunately, the extra year provided by Covid will allow him another chance to have a senior year, although he was so discouraged, he took a long time to decide to use it, rather than just moving on.

There have been rumors that Bourama’s knees are basically shot and that he’s not going to play at all or not going to be able to do anything this year, either. That would be tragic but I doubt that he would have come back at all if things were that bad. Boeheim has said that his problem was that the knee became infected but that that has now cleared up. I hope so.


They didn’t clear up and Bourama spent the season hurting. In the season’s first 25 games he played a total of 12 minutes during which he had 3 points and 4 rebounds. But down the stretch of his ‘super-senior’ season Bourama was needed. Frank Anselem had never played 40 minutes games and was too foul-prone do so if he wanted to. John Bol Ajak was…John Bol Ajak. We needed Bourama to split time with Frank and he played 141 minutes in the final 8 games on his ever-aching knees.

He had 2 points and 4 rebounds against Boston College. Then, against Georgia Tech in the last game against a bad team we would play all year, we were protecting a narrow lead when Bourama got the ball about 20 feet from the basket with a single defender on him. He looked for someone to pass to but no one was open. He then looked over his shoulder to see that this one guy was the only thing between him and the basket. He made a quick turn and dribbled all the way to the hole. He couldn’t jump enough to dunk it but laid it in to extend the lead and help us get what seemed at the time to be a vital victory. After that he just gave it everything he had, scoring 11 points with 4 rebounds and a block and a steal against Duke’s big men, 8 points, 3 rebounds, another block and 2 steals against North Carolina’s big men, 4 points, 6 rebounds and a steal against Miami, and 5 rebounds and 3 blocks in the final, valiant effort against Duke in the ACC tournament.

It allowed him to ride off into the Orange sunset with honor. I suggested on his radio show to Jim Boeheim that if you could grant DaJuan Coleman and Bourama Sidibe healthy knees, the history of SU’s last 8 seasons would have been totally different. Jim replied: “100% true.”
 

SWC75

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FORWARDS

Last year we had five forwards on the team. They included one senior, one junior, two sophomores and a freshman, all very talented. We were set at these positions for years! And they are all gone! All could have returned, even the senior as a ‘super-senior’, but they all left, leaving Jim Boeheim and his staff to try to do a massive patch job. But they found some good pieces to do it with, although I don’t think we’ll have the sort of depth we would have had without the mass exodus.


And, of course, this is our big issue. People complain that we aren’t getting the cream of the recruiting crop, that we are settling for players not in in the Top 20 or even the Top 50. How are we to compete with the schools that are. It’s a point but, in fact, we’ve been recruiting at this level for years. I know it’s a tired point, but I believe the two probation set us back on our heels in recruiting, with staying out of further trouble being a big priority. If we’d been able to continue the sort of recruiting we were doing in the late 80’s, we’d have a record like Duke or UNC.

But these todays it’s not the one-and-doners that win championships. We did with one in 2003. Kentucky and Duke did the same in 2012 and 2015. But most of the national champs in this era have bene keyed by 3- and 4-year players who were good college players. That’s the type we’ve recruited – only we can’t keep them here for 3-4 years. Everyone can play this game but what if we’d retained Michael Carter-Williams, Tyler Ennis, Chris McCullough, Malachi Richardson, Tyler Lydon or Oshae Brissett for 3-4 years, or if Tyus Battle or Elijah Hughes had stayed for their senior years? Everyone on last year’s team could have come back. What would have happened if they did?

I did a study last year to see if we really lose players more frequently and with greater impact than other top schools and concluded that, indeed we do, to some extent, anyway:
Losing players to the NBA, (they hope)

And why did they leave? To make money in the pros, of course. Will NIL change that? Why did schools like Connecticut, North Carolina, Florida, Louisville, Villanova, Virginia and Baylor retain their players better than we did? Did it have something to do with the same thing normally sited as the biggest factor in recruiting – their relationship with the coaches? I can’t answer that question.

Players lost from last year’s forwards:

Robert Braswell 6-7 206

Braswell was a talented reserve who I thought was getting lost in the crowd at this position. He was a track star with a 7 foot wingspan who could high-jump 6-10. As a basketball player he had a reputation as an outstanding shooter and in his freshman year, in limited play, he seemed to have a very advanced game. Shooting is the one thing he didn’t do well most of last year but in five ACC and NCAA tournament games he went 14 for 27 and scored 37 points in 117 minutes. Instead he proved to be a good rebounder and a fine defender who understood his role in Boeheim’s zone. He virtually supplanted Alan Griffin down the stretch, both due to the latter’ free-fall and his own usefulness. He could have had an even bigger role on this year’s team but he decided to look for greener grass and thinks he found it in Charlotte.


Robert’s stats per 40 minutes, (and minutes per game), last year at Syracuse and this year at Charlotte, (who went 17-14 but got not post-season invitation):
2020-21: 12.1m 12.4p 6.2r 0.4a 1.4s 1.0b = 21.4+ 6.9mfg 0.4mft 4.1to 1.1pf = 12.5- = 8.9NP
2021-22: 19.9m 16.4p 2.9r 1.0a 0.8s 1.2b = 22.3+ 5.6mfg 0.1mft 1.6to 3.5pf = 10.8- = 11.5NP
He’s played more and played better. He’s scored more and missed fewer shots but isn’t rebounding nearly as much. He’s also turned the ball over less. They must have him playing guard but shooting more conservatively. I don’t know if he would have bene better off but we would surely have been better off with him.

Marek Dolezaj 6-10 201

Marek will always be a huge favorite of SU fans. He came here from Slovakia with a tall, skinny body: 6-9 180. But he was quick and aggressive, hustling all over the court for loose balls, blocked shots, and rebounds. He could handle the ball well for a big man and was an excellent passer. Boeheim liked having him out there because the offense ran more efficiently with him on the court. I think he played as much center as he did not only because of the failure of our centers to stay healthy or develop but because Jim wanted to be able to put Marek on the court and still play his other forwards. He was overpowered inside by teams that had strong big men but he could also try to draw those guys from the basket where he could out-maneuver them. He one weakness in his game was a reluctance to shoot the ball. He could hit a medium range jumper and it would have opened everything else up for his drives and passes but he rarely pulled the trigger…He could have come back as a super-senior but returned home and signed with a pro team, BC Ternopil of the Ukrainian Basketball Super League. Good luck to him. If he’d stayed we probably would have had another year of a forward playing center while the true centers watched from the bench. I’d kind of like to see what those centers can do this year.


We missed what Marek could have done for us but I do think his absence allowed our centers to play more and develop their skills. Marek was not a better center than Jesse Edwards but he might have bene a better forward than Cole Swider, Jimmy Boeheim or Benny Williams. Marek going to play in the Ukraine seems to have been ill-timed. Fortunately he moved on to play in Greece. He’s had his ups and downs:

Alan Griffin 6-5 190

Griffin was an intriguing mystery man last year. He’d transferred in from Illinois, where he’d put up some big numbers per 40 minutes:
19.8p 10.0r 1.4a 1.0s 0.5b positives: 32.7 7.3mfg 0.4mft 1.7to 2.5pf negatives: 11.9 = NET: +20.8
That’s playing at an All-American level. Amazingly, he wasn’t the starter. He was behind an established star, Avo Dosunmu, who had similar numbers except for the rebounds and a couple other established players, Andres Feliz and Trent Frazier, who were said to be better defensive players. That was a red flag but still, if Griffin could put up numbers anywhere near that for us, he would be an enormous addition.

Early on, that’s exactly what he seemed to be. He had 92 points and 39 rebounds in his first five games. Then he had a game where he played 24 minutes and failed to score, getting 4 rebounds. The next game he scored 24 points, had 10 rebounds and 3 blocks, one of which saved the game. He loved to trail the play on the other team’s fast break, catch up to the ball and swat it away from behind using his speed and leaping ability. He remained the team’s most statistically productive player most of the season, (vying with fellow forward Quincy Guerrier), but there was a 5 point, 3 rebound game against Miami, 5 and 4 against Notre Dame, 4 and 4 against North Carolina. Jim Boeheim seemed hesitant to praise him after his good games, suggesting that he was not entirely pleased with his new star. As late as the last game in the regular season, Griffin had 22 points and 10 rebounds against Clemson.

In the post season, he seemed not to be interested and Boeheim had little patience with him. Griffin played pretty well against North Carolina State in the first round of the ACCT scoring 13 points, pulling down 8 rebounds and passing for 5 assists. But in the remaining four games, he played just 51 minutes, shot 1 for 13 from the field, scored 8 points and had 3 rebounds. Boeheim had Braswell on the court in his place during most of our run and it was no surprise to anybody when Griffin didn’t come back here for his senior year. He declared for the draft but went undrafted. He was last seen playing for the Los Angeles Lakers summer league team. He scored 10 points in 3 games. He just kept getting smaller and smaller until he just disappeared.


He played for both the Rio Grande Valley Vipers and the Westchester Knicks of the G-League and was waived by both. It would have been fun to see him playing against this brother AJ at Duke – or trying to convince AJ to join him here.

Quincy Guerrier 6-7 220

Quincy came here from Canada, just as Oshae Brissett, who is starting to make a name for himself with the NBA’s Indiana Pacers, was. Guerrier has constantly compared himself to Brissett since he came here, insisting that the big difference is that he had a better jump shot. In high school, he was mostly a perimeter player. He hasn’t been Brissett, who was more athletic, and he hasn’t been a perimeter player, either. He was 3 for 24 from the arc his first season and improved that to 23 of 74 last year, which is still a mediocre 31%. What he was was our strongest player and Jim Boeheim wanted him working inside. Against the early season teams, he was able to dominate. In our first 15 games, Quincy averaged 16.6 points and 9.5 rebounds, with 7 double-doubles. When we started playing ACC front lines, at 6-7 and not really a leaper, he found himself, using a Matt Park term, “getting roofed” by taller players. He also was hobbled by some injuries sustain in those paint wars down the stretch as his performance in the remaining 13 games fell to 10.3p/7.2r.

Still, people where surprised when he left the team, first looking to the NBA draft but then putting himself in the transfer portal, winding up at Oregon. There were rumors that he felt Boeheim wasn’t allowing him to be the perimeter player he wanted to be and, at 6-7, might have to be to play in the NBA. Athlon lists him third in their article on “Transfers to Watch”, saying it might mean a third straight Pac-12 title for the Ducks. Per the article on Oregon, they have plenty of shooters and are looking for Quincy to provide “toughness in the post”. Good luck, Q!

One of our problems last year was that our front line went 6-5, a skinny 6-10 and 6-7. This year we might go 6-9, 6-11, 6-9. In a zone, that can be a big difference.


Unfortunately, 6-9, 6-11, 6-9 isn’t enough when they don’t have the feet to get them where their height can make a difference. As for Quincy,. Quincy’s stats, last year and this, (per 40 minutes):
2020-21: 32.9m 16.6p 10.2r 1.0a 1.0s 1.4b = 30.2+ 6.5mfg 1.4mft 1.3to 3.4pf = 12.6- = 17.6NP
2021-22: 26.5m 15.2p 7.9r 1.2a 1.1s 0.5b = 25.9+ 7.2mfg 1.5mft 1.8to 3.5pf = 14.0- = 11.9NP
His three point attempts increased from 74 to 159 and his accuracy from 31% to 33%. Whether that impressed the NBA or not, I don’t know. His overall shooting percent age declined from 49% to 42% because a higher percent age of his shots were three pointers. His rebounding also went down and his turnovers went up as he played fewer minutes. Oregon went 20-15 and to the NIT after winning the Pac 12 two years in a row.

Woody Newton 6-8 200

Woody came in last year advertising himself as “the nation’s #1 lock-down defender”. I liked the attitude: to play defense, you’ve got to be committed to it. He also had pretty good offensive skills and good size. He had a nice run early in the season, a four-game stretch in which he scored 33 points and pulled down 18 rebounds in 60 minutes of play. Everyone was excited by his potential. The rest of the year he played 27 minutes, scored 5 points and had 2 rebounds. Then he left for Oklahoma State. There was talk he got hit hard by Covid but that wouldn’t explain the transfer. You wonder why he didn’t see everybody else leaving and stay. Athlon says, in their Oklahoma State article, “they’ll be deep and talented”. Lindy’s says of Newton that he “hopes for more playing time”.


We could have used a guy like Woody this year. I always envisioned him pairing with Benny Williams in a forward tandem that was not only talented but had names I wouldn’t have to learn to pronounce, (as opposed to Marek Dolezaj, Bourama Sidibe, etc.). But Okie State, (15-15 and stayed home), didn’t have much use for Woody:
2020-21: 7.9m 17.5p 9.2r 0.5a 1.4s 1.4b = 30.0+ 6.9mfg 1.4mft 1.8to 4.1pf = 14.2- = +15.8NP
2021-22: 7.6m 10.9p 4.7r 1.2a 1.6s 0.9b = 19.3+ 7.1mfg 1.2mft 0.6to 4.3pf = 13.2- = +6.1NP
28 of his 35 shots were from three point range and he made just 29% of them. Last year it was 18 of 28 and he made 39%. His rebounds were sharply down and his assists went up, suggesting they were using him as a guard.


They’re all gone. So Jim Boeheim and his staff had to get “deep and talented” in a hurry. They did pretty well in the ‘talented’ part but I have concerns about ‘deep.’

The Current Group:

Jimmy Boeheim 6-9 225 super senior

Jimmy is the older brother of Buddy Boeheim. He spent his first three years playing for Cornell and didn’t play at all last year because the Ivy League canceled their season due to the pandemic. Then he decided to join his father and brother under the Dome, creating fantasies of the three of them, (and Julie), cutting down the nets as they all go off into the sunset: Jim into retirement, Buddy on to the NBA and Jimmy to whatever. JB takes a dim view of this, (and of other fan fiction). Even if that doesn’t happen, the media loves family stories and coach-son relationships so you’ll be hearing a lot about the Boeheims this year.

Jimmy is a good college forward. I don’t know how much of an NBA prospect he is but I just heard a radio interview, with Mike Waters, who covers the team for the local paper, who says that Jimmy might start at forward ahead of lauded recruit Benny Williams, because of his experience at this level and because his father is the coach. People accused JB of nepotism with Buddy until he exploded at the end of last season. That silenced them and left the question of whether JB would start his son over a more qualified player unanswered. That debate could be rejoined this year, although I expect all three of the primary forwards to play.

Jimmy…has a strong motor and some good moves to the basket. He can hit the long one but he’s more of a jack-of-all-trades than a gunner. He always played well against Syracuse. In his first game as a freshman he scored 11 points and grabbed 5 rebounds, his only double-figure scoring of the season. The next year he had 9 points, 6 rebs and 4 assists and as a junior he had 25/2/2.

There’s been some suggestion that Jimmy could perform a Marek-like roll on this years team: playing center while our still-not-ready centers sit and watch. That seems unlikely due to the apparent depth at center and lack of depth at forward. He’s more likely to be in a rotation with Cole Swider and Benny Williams.


I had thought Jimmy would be a 6th man, coming off the bench to relieve both Swider and Williams but Benny was such a bust that he became the starter. He may have had the defensive limitations that our other forwards and guards had but could fill up a box score:
34.7m 15.8p 7.1r 1.8a 1.0s 0.1b = 25.8+ 7.1mfg 1.3mft 1.5to 1.9pf = 11.8- = 14.0NP
His free throw shooting slipped from 72% to 64% but he increased his three-point shooting from 29.5% to 38%, higher than his brother’s 34%. He was the perfect guy to take advent age of the defensive attention Buddy, Cole and Joe got because he could drive through the defense to score, pull up for shots or provide a fourth guy to cover on the perimeter. And watching him put up 28 on Duke, trying to extend his brother’s career touched even the coldest heart. Jimmy gave us good service this year and we can forgive him for scoring 25 on us that long-ago game.


Cole Swider 6-9 225 senior

Cole was heavily recruited by Syracuse coming out of high school but he went to Villanova, where he didn’t quite fit in. He was the first guy Jim and the staff brought in after the mass exodus at this position.
He was a four-star recruit, rated #44 nationally by 247 and the #9 power forward, much higher than anyone we lost.

SI: “Cole Swider is an elite shooter, but he is not just that. Swider was a prolific three point shooter in high school and that translated to his time at Villanova. He shot over 40% from the outside last season. Swider, however, has other elements to his game. He can hit the mid-range shot, attack off the dribble and finish around the rim. Swider has added 15 pounds of muscle to his frame with the Wildcats and is up to 225-pounds. That allows him to be physical inside, play in the post at times and also score through contact. His body type and strength could allow him to play in the middle of the zone if Syracuse elects to go small at times. Similar to how the Orange used Tyler Lydon. Swider has a better handle than most would think and is also a solid passing forward. As a rebounder, Swider is not afraid to mix it up inside. He shows solid rebounding instincts, so his numbers on the boards should improve with a more consistent role.”

Orangefizz: “Swider is crafty at finding open passing lanes, where teammates can locate him from behind the arc for open threes. He’s also terrific in transition and is able to sprint past transitioning defenders for easy buckets. While he’s not the quickest player on the court, Swider is solid at finding openings within a defense, and moves very well without the ball. This past season there were plenty of moments where Syracuse’s off-ball offensive players simply stood around, waiting for a dribbler to create shots. Swider doesn’t do that. Instead, he rotates well and moves into passing lanes. At 225 pounds, Swider has the size and bulk that Syracuse is lacking. While he’s best in catch and shoot opportunities, Swider will also back down smaller defenders into the paint when there is a size mismatch. Once he’s on the low blocks, the junior likes to utilize an easy hook shot to score over his defender.”

Nunes: “Q: Cole Swider had plenty of hype around him out of high school but didn’t seem to hit that potential at Villanova. What do you think was the main reason(s) for that? A, (from Chris Lane at VU Hoops): It’s a tough one. He looked like a perfect fit for Villanova when he signed, but it just never really clicked for him under Jay Wright. I’d argue that he finally took a major step forward on the offensive end this season, but the athletic/defensive shortcomings limited his ability to become a major contributor. Offensively he’s on the scouting report for the shooting but never fully developed other parts of his offensive game. And despite that good size, he was never really a threat to score in the paint. Jay Wright’s offense is another factor here. He leans heavily on skilled player that can create their own shot, as well as create for others. Swider never really showed an ability to do either and mostly required others to get his shots for him. I don’t think that offensive style and his skillset ever really fit together well.”

On his defense: “Swider is limited athletically compared to a lot of the guys he was going up against every night in the Big East. That won’t change with a move to the ACC. He’s a fighter on the boards and always give s 100%, but he can be -- and often was — targeted defensively because he doesn’t have the feet to stay in front of many players on the perimeter. It reached the point late in the season at Villanova where there were games he just couldn’t play in because of bad matchups. Obviously with the zone at Syracuse, they should be able to hide him a bit more… Villanova’s switch-heavy defense left him exposed in a mismatch a lot, and he could get lost and into scramble mode fairly easily against teams that attacked and required the defense to help and rotate. That shouldn’t happen much if at all in the zone. At 6’9” he’s got really good size as well and should be able to contribute on the defensive glass.”

That doesn’t seem like the same player SI and Orangefizz talked about. The Daily Orange asked Cole why he transferred: “The work ethic followed him to Nova, but the opportunities didn’t. Although his mindset on the game mirrored Jay Wright’s program, his offense-first playing style subverted him to a reserve role. The sharpshooter averaged 4.4 field goal attempts per game in his three seasons with the Wildcats. When he noticed a logjam in Villanova’s frontcourt due to every player receiving an extra year of eligibility, he knew it was time for a change.”


I love his highlight tape, (which is from 2019-20):

2019-20:
Yes, it’s a highlight tape and all the shots go in but he looks like an NBA player to me. Quick, smooth release, able to create his own shot and drive to the basket, back a guy down off the dribble. It’s all offensive but he looks like he could be a very good player for us.


I watched that highlight tape for the first time since I posted my preview. It’s a wonderful highlight reel with Cole showing himself to be a jump-shooting machine abut also showing that he could drive aggressively through the defense. It notably doesn’t show defensive highlights. It’s clear that those highlights were taken from a lot of different games: he was a reserve and so his highlights were likely to be widely separated. The big thing is that I didn’t see many of those drives to the basket to score this year. I doubt you could find a similar number of drives to make a highlight film for us this year.

“He can hit the mid-range shot, attack off the dribble and finish around the rim.”: We didn’t see a lot of that. “While he’s not the quickest player on the court, Swider is solid at finding openings within a defense, and moves very well without the ball. This past season there were plenty of moments where Syracuse’s off-ball offensive players simply stood around, waiting for a dribbler to create shots. Swider doesn’t do that. Instead, he rotates well and moves into passing lanes.” Well, he did “do that” this year, waiting for a dribbler to create his shots. Nunes was right: “never fully developed other parts of his offensive game. And despite that good size, he was never really a threat to score in the paint. Jay Wright’s offense is another factor here. He leans heavily on skilled player that can create their own shot, as well as create for others. Swider never really showed an ability to do either and mostly required others to get his shots for him.”

““Swider is limited athletically compared to a lot of the guys he was going up against every night in the Big East. That won’t change with a move to the ACC. He’s a fighter on the boards and always give s 100%, but he can be -- and often was — targeted defensively because he doesn’t have the feet to stay in front of many players on the perimeter. It reached the point late in the season at Villanova where there were games he just couldn’t play in because of bad matchups.” Yup. That’s what we saw. Cole started ut the season in a shooting slump, a particular problem for a players whose strength that is. Through our first 10 games, (the Georgetown game), Cole was 40 for 108 from the field: 37%. He was 20 for 62 from the arc (32%) and 20 for 46 (43%) inside of it. One thing he was doing well was rebounding. He had double-doubles in three games and was a point short in another. Through most of the season he was the third option behind Buddy Boeheim and Joe Girard and sometimes the 4th behind Jimmy Boeheim.

But he started to assert himself late in the season, especially after Jesse Edwards went down. In ur last 13 game she averaged 16.2 points per game, including a team season high of 36 at North Carolina and a 28-point 13 rebound game against Florida State in the ACC. He still had a couple of bad games when the other team decided to get in his face. He had 2 points and no rebound in a 14 minute stint against Duke in the Dome, a game where he did not foul out but was instead upstaged by Benny Williams. Next came the 36 point game against UNC, followed by a 6 point game in the Dome against Miami, when eh shot 2 for 9 and made the turnover that led to the and one that gave the Canes the lead and eventually ended the winning season streak.

He needs to come back, not only to give us a veteran, productive player but to round out his game. He needs to work on his ball handling skills and see what he can do to improve his defense. If not, the NBA will have little interest in him.


Benny Williams 6-8 215 freshman

Benny is our first 5 star recruit in quite a while, (although, checking 247, he’s now a 4 star, probably because he chose us). He was ranked the 31st best recruit in the country and the 6th best small forward. People have tended to assume he would start immediately but word from inside the program suggests that he might find himself behind Jimmy Boeheim. It really doesn’t matter. With three legitimate forwards, they will all play a lot, splitting up 80 minutes a game.

247: “Has positive length for a combo forward. Is thin, however, and needs to build up mass and strength. A high leaper with athleticism. Can struggle to utilize athleticism against contact and while in traffic. Has a great shooters touch. Finishes well on the move going to the basket. Is a reliable three-point shooter. Has potential to really extend his range. Not necessarily a nifty ball handler, but Williams is a reliable handler and can see the floor and distribute while on the move. Is a straight line driver who likes to utilize a crossover early in the drive. Has potential has a versatile defender and overall rebounder. Developing physical strength and toughness is vital.”

Some highlights:




He seems to have all the skills you’d want and to have an “isn’t it fun to be me” attitude. He enjoys the game and how he can play it…we’ve got a potentially strong rotation of three forwards. But if anyone gets injured, (and too many have in recent years for SU), the situation here could get pretty thin in a hurry.

Here are the highlights of the Benny Williams that showed up in the Dome this season:

1648361031317.png



Players develop at difference rates and times but I’ve never seen a bigger difference between expectations and performance in a freshman season. People tried to compare him to other players who had had slow starts but went on to distinguished careers. I did a study of “Freshmen Forwards” and found that Benny’s level of performance was unprecedented for a any recruit of his ranking or any player who later made good:

Benny seemed devoid of confidence, totally tentative. When he a chance to make a play, he’d find a way to screw it up. He had a nine-game stretch where he never made a shot, going 0 for 12. His shot was flat as a pancake, (in the above highlights it has some arc on it). His play had a joylessness to it, as far as possible from what we saw in those highlights. He kept working at it, even working out on the Carrier Dome court after a game in front of reporters. But he never seemed to improve. He seems to lack the drive and confidence of a player who will ever become a star – except for one game.

I remembered getting angry after the Villanova and Georgetown games that those teams each had a freshman who badly out-performed our star freshman, (and the only player we had in that class) and that was a major reason for the loss. I decided to look at all our losses and record Benny Williams’ net points and those of the other team’s best freshman in that game for comparison:
Colgate Benny Williams +2NP Colgate played no freshmen
Virginia Commonwealth Benny Williams 0NP Jayden Nunn +6NP
Auburn Benny Williams -1NP Jabari Smith +22NP
Villanova Benny Williams -3NP So much for my memory- all their players were juniors and seniors.
Georgetown Benny Williams 0NP Aminu Mohammed +32NP he was 247’s #24 recruit Benny was #32. Georgetown won their next game over Howard to go 6-4 and then lost their next 21 games in a row to close out the season.
Virginia Benny Williams +4NP Taine Murray +7NP
U of Miami 1 Benny Williams +2NP Bensley Joseph +4NP
Wake Forest Benny Williams +1NP Matthew Cleveland +6NP
Duke 1 Benny Williams -1NP Paolo Banchero +24NP
Pittsburgh 2 Benny Williams -1NP Nick Santos 0NP
Virginia Tech Benny Williams -1NP Sean Pedulla -1NP
Notre Dame Benny Williams 0NP Blake Wesley +4NP
Duke II Benny Williams +18NP AJ Griffin +19NP
North Carolina Benny Williams -3NP The Heels didn’t use a freshman.
U of Miami II DNP – injured Bensley Joseph +3NP
Duke III DNP – injured Paolo Banchero +19NP
The number of games in which our prized freshmen out-played any freshman on the other team was zero.

The one game in which Benny Williams showed us where Benny Williams is capable of was the Duke game in the Dome, (and even then AJ Griffin as slightly better). Why did benny take off the Clark Kent suit for that game? One reason might have been that we were never in it. Duke came out en fuego and we fell behind 0-14 and eventually 18-48 before losing 72-97. So Duke’s intensity may not have bene there the whole game. But I think the big factor was that Peter Carey, Justin Taylor and Chris Bunch, three of the five recruits for next year and all of whom could possibly play forward for us next year, were in attendance and sitting right behind the SU bench. Maybe that’s what Benny needs: someone with more future eligibility than he has who can play his position being on the team. If he could live up to his ranking we’d essentially be adding a 5 star recruit to a 5 man class. At the same time, his experience, (and those of Jalen Carey, Brycen Goodine, Woody Newton, etc.) all into question how much we can depend on the new class of freshmen to help us next year. At least we’ll have some options. We won’t just have one freshmen and we won’t have three players for two positions at forward or in the backcourt, as we did this year.
 

SBU72

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You're right on. We could have pulled out a winning season by winning one or two of those close games, but we didn't deserve to win any of them. We folded at the end of tight games. Our lack of poise against pressure defenses exposed our two big deficiencies: lack of quickness and lack of depth.
Watching UNC blow a 25 pt lead with 10 minutes to made me think of SU. How could they so consistently have a hard time inbounding the ball! And to me it looked like they tried the same play like 20 times in a row with the same poor result! It looked like they tried nothing different. Like SU.
 

SWC75

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GUARDS

Players lost from last year’s guards:

Kadary Richmond 6-5 180

Losing Kadary was, to Syracuse fans, like having a tooth pulled – and realizing that it’s not the tooth that hurts. We saw enough of him last year to see that this could be an All-American, (you might compare him to Sean Tucker in his freshman year with the football team). He was 6-5 with a 7 foot armspan, an aggressive defender but also a good ball-handler, penetrator and passer. Supposedly he didn’t have much of a jump shot but as the season went along, he even looked smooth doing that. Joe Girard was struggling and it seemed to us that Kadary was already the better player and, paired with the 6-6 Buddy Boeheim, gave us one of the biggest and best back courts in the country. Zones do better with height and, with a small frontcourt, having big backcourt could make up for that. A line-up this year of 6-5 Kadary, 6-6 Buddy, two 6-9 forwards, (Jimmy and Cole) or 6-8 Benny Williams with 7-0 Jesse Edwards would be a team very much capable of winning that Hollywood-ending national championship.

But, (at least this is the supposed backstory), Boeheim, seeing Kadary’s early failed efforts at making jumps shots, had ordered him to stop shooting them and Kadary wanted to prove that he was an all-around guard, or at least develop into one. Also, JB was loyal to Joe Girard, both as the incumbent point guard and a player brought down by Covid: he stated that you don’t lose your starting position to injury: when you come back, the job’s still yours, (nobody gets ‘Pipped’). I also suspect that Jim just liked Joe better. Kadary felt frustrated by his limited role here and decided to transfer to Seton Hall.

Most of the guys who have transferred from Jim Boeheim’s program have brought their troubles with them and not done well at their new locations. I did a study of SU transfers some years back and did find 18 players who left here and scored in double figures at their new school. But none were All Americans. Many played for lesser programs: Hawaii, Long Beach State, Fairfield, Iona, Lambuth, Marist. The guys who played for power five schools were playing behind clearly better players when they were here. It will be interesting to see what Kadary Richmond, Quincy Guerrier, Robert Braswell and Woody Newton will accomplish with their new schools and how much we will miss them here. If we can fill their positions well here, that will be a good anesthetic.

Update: Today (10/25), I heard a clip from a JB interview in which he said that Kadary “didn’t want to work hard” and couldn’t play any more than he did here because he “wasn’t in shape” to do so. Then he went to Seton Hall “where they already have five guards. We’ll see how that works out.” Obviously, the subject of Kadary was a sore spot with him, either because of Kadary’s attitude or because everybody questioned Jim’s judgement last year - or both. He sure didn’t play like a guy who wasn’t working hard.

21.0m 12.0p 5.0r 5.8a 3.1s 1.0b positive: 26.9, 5.2mfg 1.2mft 3.0to 2.6pf negative: 12.0 = +14.9NP 5.6FG 9.3FG
That’s better than Joe or even Buddy. He shot 47% from two, 33% from three and 72% from the line.

So, how did he do at Seton Hall?
25.9m 13.7p 5.5r 6.4a 2.6s 0.5b = 28.7+ 7.5mfg 0.9mft 4.0to 3.2pf = 15.6- = 13.1NP 5.3OE 7.8FG
He shot better from the arc, (33.3% vs. 34.5%) and the line (72.1% vs. 75.0%) but was significantly worse inside the arc (47.5% to 41.7%) and thus overall: (45.3% vs. .40.2%). The percentage of his shots that came from beyond the arc did increase from 15.1% to 21.1%.
He got about 5 more minutes of playing time. He scored a couple points more and got a few more rebounds and assists. But didn’t get as many steals or blocks. He missed a couple more shots a game, shot fouls a little better, had one more turnover a game and fouled a bit more. His overall production as down almost two NP a game. His offensive efficiency was about the same but his floor game was not as good. The important thing is that he didn’t blossom into an all-American. He might in the future, but not yet.


The guys who stayed:

Buddy Boeheim 6-6 195 senior

When Buddy was a freshman, people wondered if he was just a ‘legacy recruit’, much like Chaz Owens is seen as now. His reputation was a shooter and midway through that season, his shooting had been terrible. Through his first 15 games he was 6 for 23 on two-pointers, (.261) and 12 for 47 from three-point range, (.255). But in the second half of that season, he started to find the range: in the last 17 games he was 19/33 inside the arc (57.6%) and 35/86 (40.7%) outside of it. His numbers per 40 minutes that year:
15.9p 3.8r 2.4a 1.3s 0.2b positive: 23.6, 8.6mfg 0.5mft 1.8to 2.8pf negative: 13.7 NET: +9.9

The next year he became a starter. His minutes went from 17.1 to 35.6 per game. His overall shooting percent ages went from .446 for twos/.353 for threes/ .788 for frees to .462/.370/.714. His per 40 minutes went to this:
17.3p 2.1r 2.4a 1.2s 0.2b positive: 23.2, 9.1mfg 0.6mft 1.7to 1.9pf negative: 13.3 NET: +9.8
He was basically the same player. He missed fewer shots, although his free throw percentage dropped a bit. He rebounded less, (he may have played a little small forward in 2019: I don’t remember). He committed fewer fouls as players tend to do as they gain more experience. He scored 20+ points ten times. His worst game was also best game: He was shut out in the first half of a loss to Georgetown but poured in 25 points in the second half. His hero is Klay Thompson and he was showing he could get off on that kind of a scoring streak.

Last year, for his first 15 games, (he sat out three games on a COVID scare), he shot 50/122, (.446) from 2 point range and 32/102 (.314) from three point range, scoring 14.3 points per game. But, beginning with a February 20th game against Notre Dame, he really went off and did in such a way to suggest that his career could continue at this level – it seemed like more than just a hot streak. In the last ten games he shot 79/153, (.516) from two and 45/99 (45.5) from three and averaged 23.0 points per game. In the ACC tournament he scored 27 points on NC State and 31 against Virginia’s tough defense. In the NCAA’s he blew away San Diego State with 30 points on 11/15 shooting including 7 three pointers, many from way out or with a hand in his face. Against West Virginia he hit a three in the first minute, then was shut out for the rest of the half. Bob Huggins figured he’s come up with a defense for Buddy, only to see him score 22 in the second half in another upset win. It took Houston, statistically the best defensive team in the country, to hold Buddy to 12 points in the finale. If Buddy plays like that all season, he could make a run at the national scoring title, something that hasn’t happened here since Dave Bing was playing, (last year the winner was Max Abmas of Oral Roberts at 24.6ppg). More likely he’ll settle back into the high teens on what should be a balanced team but have plenty of big games.

Here are his 40 minute averages for the season:
36.2m 19.6p 2.9r 2.8a 1.5s 0.4b = 27.2+ 9.3mfg 0.4mft 1.8to 1.8pf = 13.3- = 13.9NP 9.9OE 4.0FG
He shot 43.3% overall: 49.1% from two, 38.3% from three and 84.9% from the line.
He improved his scoring, rebounded a bit more and had a few more assists. He’s also developed some moves to the basket and pull-up shots to give himself some options for the defenses that are now geared to stop him. He can create his own shot and is a scorer, not just a shooter. If he wants an NBA career he’s got to continue to improve his ball-handling and defensive skills and it would help if he could rebound more and get a few more assists. He does play the passing lanes well and understands his father’s zone. Plus he’s 6-6. No, I don’t think that 10 game stretch just a hot streak. I think it was a star coming into his own. We’ll see this year. There will be a lot of publicity about him and his family and a lot of pressure to perform on that level the whole season. I hope it isn’t too much.

Here's Buddy’s numbers for 2021-22:
37.9m 20.2p 3.6r 3.2a 1.6s 0.1b = 28.7+ 10.3mfg 0.4mft 1.8to 1.8pf = 14.3- = 14.4NP 9.5OE 4.9FG
He shot 40.6% overall, 47.0% from two, 34.1% from three and 88.4% from the line.
Buddy scored a little more, (he was the conference’s regular season scoring champion), rebounded better, had a few more assists, about the same steals and few blocks. He missed more field goals, but his other negatives remained the same. His shooting percentages went down except for his free throw shooting. And, frankly, they were hardly spectacular. His drives and pull-ups were less effective and his three-point percentage. The median NCAA team percentage was 34.0. His scoring achievements were attributed to what a poster called ‘usage’. He played 38 minutes a game and put-up shots at the rate of 17.2 per 40 minutes, up from 16.4 the previous year, not a huge increase. His three-point attempts declined from 8.8 to 8.5 per 40 minutes. His two-point attempts went up from 7.6 to 8.7 and his free throw attempts went up from 2.3 to 3.7. His scoring went up because he was driving to the basket more and getting to the line more.

The great debate was whether his shooting percentages went down because he became a worse shooter or because he was the focus of the defense even more than he was as a junior after that late season run. I thought he was being double-teamed all the time. One poster denied that and told me “Buddy just dribbled into the defense”. I don’t think he lost the capacity to shoot as he did as a junior overall but those last ten games were not the birth of a superstar. Buddy was shooting on a level in those games that his talent couldn’t sustain. He’s a good college scorer, not the next Jerry West. He’s the best we had so going from 36 to 38 minutes doesn’t bother me. The big mystery is why this team wasn’t able to get the defensive pressure off of him. We had three other shooters: Cole, Joe and Jimmy, who shot 38% from three, Buddy’s number from the previous season. Jimmy also provided a second guy who could drive to the basket and Jesse Edward became a huge pick and roll guy. How could defense afford to double-team Buddy? We averaged 77.4 points per game, 21st in the country, so maybe the defense did pay for focusing on Buddy, but not enough to get them off him. And what will next year’s team do when there’s no Buddy and they can focus on his former teammates?


Joe Girard 6-1 185 junior

Joe came out of high school as one of the highest scorers in history, one of 7 players to have averaged 50 points a game for a season, (and 48 the next), and he’s already had a better career than the other six guys had:
Top 10 single-season high school basketball scoring averages, including Bjorn Broman's 7th-place finish - MaxPreps

In his first season, he quickly won the point guard position both by default as both Jalen Carey and Brycen Goodine flopped, and Joe proved to be a more than adequate replacement. From last year’s preview:
“Here are Joe’s 40-minute averages for his freshman year and then the numbers of some other prominent Syracuse point guards who started as freshmen:
Joe Girard: 1,056 minutes 15.1 points 3.7 rebounds 4.3 assists 1.8 steals 2.3 turnovers 1.8 fouls
Two pointers: 38.5%, three pointers: 32.3%, free throws: 89.4%
Pearl Washington: 1,087m 16.9p 3.1r 7.3a 2.8s 4.1to 3.7pf 54.4%/(no three pointers)/66.2%
Michael Edwards 794m 10.5p 1.8r 8.5a 1.5s 4.0to 3.1pf 49.5%/33.7%/75.0%
Adrian Autry 1,030m 11.7p 3.1r 6.4a 2.4s 4.3to 4.0pf 44.0%/31.7%/70.5%
Jason Hart 1,144m 10.7p 4.0r 6.4a 3.1s 3.5to 3.0pf 39.5%/32.9%/69.0%
Gerry McNamara 1,236m 15.1p 2.6r 5.0a 2.5s 2.8to 2.2pf 31.7%/35.7%/90.9%
Jonny Flynn 1,243m 17.6p 3.0r 6.0a 1.7s 3.1to 1.6pf 52.9%/34.8%/77.5%
Tyler Ennis 1,215m 14.6p 3.8r 6.2a 2.4s 1.9to 2.3pf 42.9%/35.3%/76.5%
Kaleb Joseph 847m 8.7p 3.2r 5.6a 1.3s 3.4to 2.7pf 41.8%/20.0%/71.9%

Joe scored as much as GMAC and better than anybody except the Pearl and Jonny. He didn’t hit 6 three pointers in the first half in the national championship game as GMAC did but he’s a streak shooter and might have if he had a team around him that could have gotten there. He is stronger, (he won two state titles as a football quarterback and at 195 pounds weighs almost as much as our 6-10 guys) and was a better rebounder than any of them except, Jason Hart and, (strangely – I don’t recall him getting a lot of rebounds), Tyler Ennis. He didn’t have a lot of assists but 4.3-1.8 isn’t a bad assist-to-turnover ratio. I remember him having quick hands – he wasn’t just stealing passes. He was a good and creative dribbler and took good care of the ball. He didn’t get in foul trouble. He’s a bit small, (listed at 6-1 but I wonder), for the zone and had problems covering shooters or preventing the ball from getting into the paint. Ironically what he wasn’t was an outstanding shooter. He could hit from range and had a quick release but missed 230 shots- 8.7 per 40 minutes. He wasn’t the #1 option and wasn’t feeling the brunt of the defense. He wasn’t a penetrator, so all his offense came from the outside. He needs better shot selection and to use his dribbling skills to get around people to set up shots and passes. I think it will come as he matures. He’s a gym rat and will continue to work on these things.”

In 2021, Joe had built himself to get stronger but also got a bit slower. Then he was really slowed down by a Covid attack – probably the worst on the team. Also, the pock-marked schedule made it hard to anyone to get any kind of rhythm. Then there was Kadary Richmond, who was taller, longer, more athletic and showed every skill you’d want in a point guard. Fans got mad at Boeheim for sticking with Joe and JB got mad at the fans for questioning his judgement. Fans were then disgusted when Kadary left and we were left with Joe.

Let’s see how far Joe’s sophomore performance declined from his freshman performance, (per 40m):
Freshman: 15.1p 3.7r 4.3a 1.8s 0.1b = 25.0+ 8.7mfg 0.4mft 2.3to 1.8pf = 13.2- = 11.8NP 6.0OE 5.8FG 34.8% overall /38.5% from 2/32.3% from 3/89.4% frees
Sophomore: 14.1p 4.2r 5.1a 2.0s 0.1b = 25.5+ 8.6mfg 0.6mft 3.0to 2.0pf = 14.2- = 11.3NP 4.9OE6.4FG
35.5%/ 38.5% / 33.3%/78.0%
He was basically the same player each year. In 2021, he scored a bit less but rebounded more and had more assists, (thank you Buddy!), shot three pointers slightly better and foul shots noticeably but not alarmingly worse. He had a few more turnovers. His assist-to-turnover ratio went from 4.3/2.3 to 5.1/3.0. Both could be better. But the biggest things were that he didn’t become a better player in his second year and he had Kadary Richmond breathing down his neck. Buddy Boeheim made a big move up in his third year. Maybe Joe will, too.

Buddy and Kadary could have been the best backcourt in the nation but Buddy and Joe, having started and been productive for three years aren’t bad.

Joe came out en fuego but the results got more mixed as the year went on. His stats per 40 minutes:
34.1m 16.2p 3.3r 4.9a 1.9s 0.0b = 26.3+ 7.8mfg 0.4mft 3.3to 1.5pf = 13.0- = 13.3NP 8.0OE 5.3FG
39.2%/37.6%/40.3%/88.2%
Joe scored better because he was outstanding rather than mediocre from three. His other numbers remained the same, except him assist to turnover ratio continued to decline from 4.3/2.3 as a freshman to 5.1/3.0 as a sophomore 4.9/3.3 this year. (Compare that to Sym Torrence’s numbers, below.) His shot selection didn’t change much: 5.1 twos/8.2 threes as a freshman, 5.6/7.7 as a sophomore and 5.0/7.9 this year. I think he might have been the primary beneficiary of the defensive attention Buddy got. Late in the year Joe worked with Symir at the point and Joe and the ‘2’, which worked well as they were both in their natural positions. That may be our starting backcourt next year.


Symir Torrence 6-3 190 junior

Essentially, Symir is the closest thing we’ve got as a replacement for Kadary Richmond. He’s not quite as tall or long but he’s got good size for a guard and - surprise! - he was actually the higher rated recruit by 247:

Kadary: #90 nationally and #1`9 as small forward.
“Good length for a combo guard. Solid athlete. Good two foot jumper. An off-the-dribble scorer. Great change of direction moves on the drive. Rebounds his position and has good potential as a defender.”

Symir: Symir Torrence, Syracuse Orange, Combo Guard #75 nationally and #11 combo guard
“Good physique for a point guard, and he can also play shooting guard. A physical slasher who passes well off the dribble. Loves to set players up but is a quality scorer as well. Quality rebounder as a guard who can defend at a high level and defend multiple positions. Plays with an edge and competes. Could develop into an NBA player.”

Symir opted to go to Marquette, where he didn’t play a lot:
Symir Torrence College Stats | College Basketball at Sports-Reference.com
As a freshman, he was behind senior Markus Howard, the nation’s leading scorer with 27.8ppg, Koby McEwen, a junior transfer from Utah State who had averaged 15.6ppg there and 9.5 with the Golden Eagles and Greg Elliott, a sophomore who had been the 224th best recruit and 49th shooting guard in the country coming out of high school. The next year he was behind D.J. Carton, a sophomore transfer from Ohio State who had been ranked the 34th best recruit in the country who had scored 10.4 for the Buckeyes and now 13.4 for Marquette, McEwen, who scored 10.2 and Elliott who scored 6.2.

His per 40m averages in his two seasons there:
Freshman: 11.0m 8.2p 6.0r 7.5a 1.2s 0.0b = 22.9+ 3.8mfg 0.5mft 3.3to 4.5pf = 12.1- =
10.8NP 3.9OE 6.9FG overall: .410, 2 pointers: .467 threes: .375 frees: .727
Sophomore: 13.0m 7.3p 4.2r 4.7a 0.9a 0.1b = 18.2+ 5.4mfg 0.9mft 2.7to 2.4pf = 11.4 - =
6.8NP 1.0OE 5.8FG .311/.560/.139/.667
His three-point shooting declined sharply in his second year there, from 9 for 24 to 5 for 36. His other numbers were down but still pretty good and he committed fewer fouls.

Here’s Richmond’s per 40m from his one year here:
Freshman: 21.0m 12.0p 5.0r 5.8a 3.1s 1.0b = 26.9+ 5.2mfg 1.2mft 3.0to 2.6pf = 12.0- =
14.9NP, .453/.475/.333/.721. It’s ironic that the one thing he was clearly better at than Symir, (that is measurable by the numbers), was scoring and JB didn’t want Kadary to shoot.

Kadary’s legs and arms at longer. He plays in three dimensions, Symir more in two. Kadary looks like an NBA player, Symir more like a good college player. But we need good college players. And Symir played AAU ball with both Buddy and Joe so their chemistry might be better.

Here are Symir’s numbers this season at SU:
13.0m 7.9p 4.8r 9.0a 1.3s 0.2b = 23.2+ 4.6mfg 1.0mft 2.7to 2.1pf = 10.4- =
12.8NP 2.3OE 10.5FG .416/.420/.375/.500
His scoring and rebounding weren’t much different than at Marquette. His scoring consisted almost exclusively of drives to the basket. He showed a knack for using the backboard that reminded me of one of my favorite players from my youth: Sam Jones of the Celtics, who was the master of the bank shot. But there wasn’t really any jump shot with range. What he got to do here was to distribute the ball to multiple shooters after breaking down the defense off the dribble and it enabled him to get an astronomical 9.0 assists per 40 minutes, compared to just 2.3 turnovers, a ratio far beyond anything Joe Girard was capable of. He wasn’t the defensive force that Kadari had been. Other than that, he was largely the same player that he had been at Marquette. The fact that he was a junior suggested that he reached his ceiling. But he’ll be an experienced point guard next years, something that Quadir Copeland won’t be. I suspect we’ll at least star the year with Symir and Joe in the backcourt and see how it goes from there.


I like our roster. I think everyone can play at this level. I don’t think that anyone is a ‘project’ - anymore. We have increased size and great depth in big men. We may finally have a true center who can dominate inside. Swider, Boeheim and Williams could be a great forward rotation while the Buddy and Joe show continues in the backcourt. Those two may not be defensive whizzes but a third year playing together should count for something. We’ve lost some good individual defensive players but the Boeheim zone is all about team defense and it plays better when we are big, which we now are at 4 positions. Symir, at the least, should make a fine third guard. There’s going to be plenty of outside shooting, although we’ve had some recent teams that thought they’d be a superior perimeter team that struggled due to the lack of an inside scoring presence. Maybe we can change that now. My main concern is depth at forward and guard. Three-man rotations are great but what if we get injuries and foul trouble? Who among the centers could play forward? Who among the forwards could help out at guard? Who among the guards could help out at forward? Everybody wishes we had Kadary Richmond. I wish we had Robert Braswell or Woody Newton, as well.

We had three guys not ready to play at this level: the marginal John Bol Ajak and Chaz Owens and the hugely disappointing Benny Williams. The other guys all contributed but had a combination of strengths and weaknesses that weren’t enough to get us over the hump. We could score but were too dependent on the jump shot, which is always going to be erratic. For that reason, JB likes the isolation game that gets the ball inside and puts us on the line, where we were excellent. But he was doing it with jump shooters, so the results were erratic. Our ball-handling was poor, at least until we got Torrance involved. And he was such a poor scorer and foul shooter we didn’t tend to have him in there at the end of games, several of which slipped away from us. We started out as a bad defensive team. By the end of the season I’d say we were a decent one but too many losses were in the bank and even at the end we had a hard time sustaining it for 40 minutes. We might have at least continued the winning season streak with better injury luck but he’d had good luck with injuries until then. I’d have to say that we were what our record - 16-17 – is what we were with this group of players.
 
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