When Matthew Moyer went down with a left ankle sprain in the Orange’s win over Boston College, the season had SU fans shaking their heads again. The hustle, strength and size that Moyer brings to this team is one of a kind and he has used it to his advantage in ACC play. The pessimistic crowd began to groan about the lack of depth on this team, and rightfully so. With Moyer on the sidelines for the time being, SU is down to seven scholarship players. And even when it had three guys on its bench, their playing time was sparse.
But Saturday showcased one of the best performances by an SU player all season. Bourama Sidibe’s career night that featured 18 points, 16 rebounds and 3 blocks powered Syracuse in a too close for comfort win over Pitt.
The frontcourt has been off and on all season long. Paschal Chukwu has been consistent on the defensive end with a three blocks per game average, but the 7-foot-2 center only has five double-digit rebound games in 21 outings. Offensively, Chukwu has shown flashes of brilliance, but it has not been consistent enough to be comfortable with him as a fourth option. Not to mention that he is not a threat outside of seven feet.
But against Pitt, Sidibe showed plenty of promise underneath the rim. He used the basket to protect against potential shot-blockers. His offensive game already seems much more polished than Chukwu’s in the paint.
It doesn’t end on offense. SU would get a boost defensively with two guys who average out at seven feet tall down low. It’s a lineup that cannot spend too much time together because it clogs up the lane on offense, but it could be effective on defense with a disturbing amount of length. However, it could help against teams that struggle to shoot the three and are forced to attack the basket. This is particularly effective against ACC opponents because eight teams (excluding Syracuse) rank 100th or worse in the country. Six of those teams appear on the Orange’s remaining schedule.
But the larger payoff from this entire situation is that there is a competent option behind Chukwu if he struggles early on or gets into foul trouble.
Arguably the most promising part of this is that Sidibe seems healthy given his career-high 31 minutes against the Panthers after sitting out against Boston College and averaging seven minutes per game in conference play.
With Moyer out for an unclear amount of time, the Orange needs some certainty on its bench with just two healthy bench options at this point. If Sidibe can play like the guy he showed he could be in the preseason and non-conference slate, then the Orange could surprise some upper-echelon teams that struggle with length.