To Jim Boeheim’s credit, he felt compelled to explain his decision to keep freshman center Jesse Edwards on the pine for the entire 40 minutes of SU’s win over North Florida. While Boeheim meandered through multiple topics unrelated to the original reporter’s question, he said this.
Jesse has been good in practice. We couldn’t use him today because he’d have to go to the corner. The center has to go out to the corner to cover and he just isn’t ready to do that. It wouldn’t be fair to put him in that.
Boeheim correctly identified that UNF’s five-out offense would force the center to defend the perimeter, so Edwards didn’t play. Again, credit to the head coach for explaining his decision unprovoked, but it still draws a yellow card.
In a miraculous failure, Syracuse was outrebounded by North Florida. The Ospreys don’t play anyone over six-foot-eight. UNF was coming off a game where they were outrebounded 39-27 by Florida State. Any respectable ACC team outrebounds a severely undersized mid-major opponent. Even this perimeter-heavy Syracuse team should.
The Orange went to Dolezaj and Sidibe in the middle of the zone in order to defend the perimeter. But North Florida continued to have respectable success of offense, draining 17 of 46 three-point attempts on its way to 70 points. Dolezaj was very good on the offensive end, so I understand him playing. It’s Sidibe’s 22 minutes that Edwards should be eating into.
There’s a bigger picture in all of this. After all, who cares about the North Florida game? Sidibe is clearly not the answer long-term. If he remains the center, ACC play is like a meteorite crashing towards the helpless Syracuse interior defense. Opposing bigs have demolished Sidibe inside, which is why Edwards needs to be developed in a hurry.
The Dutch hasn’t proven much of anything, but Sidibe has proven he can’t handle skilled centers. And Edwards has rarely looked out of place when on the floor. In fact, he blows Sidibe out of the water in two key Per 40 Minutes statistics.
Sidibe (Per 40): 9.3 PTS, 12.3 REBS, 0.3 AST, 1.5 BLK
Edwards (Per 40): 15.9 PTS, 8.8 REBS, 0.0 AST, 2.7 BLK
Edwards is averaging more points in adjusted minutes than Joe Girard. He’s the team’s third leading scorer by that metric. He’s also nearly doubling Sidibe in blocked shots. That’s the biggest key, considering Sidibe’s continued struggles to bother interior scorers. The 2-3 zone takes advantage of no three-second rule in college basketball, but without a rim protector, it goes to waste.
Remember, Sidibe is a junior, Edwards is a freshman: Sidibe should be playing way better than Edwards. I knew since the Georgetown game that I wanted to write a piece of this kind, but I planned on calling for Edwards to start. Unfortunately, that seems like a far cry from realistic at this point. So maybe we can at least get ten minutes per game so that SU can develop a more effective center in the near future.