Even though ACC conference play has just begun, we at the Fizz have written plenty of articles about what needs to change for Syracuse to actually win an ACC game. Maybe Jesse Edwards deserves more playing time, or Marek Dolezaj must step up his consistency. Or is Quincy Guerrier the answer?
With a matchup against reigning national champions Virginia on the horizon, it’s becoming clear there is no one area Syracuse must improve. This SU team simply isn’t as good as the rest of the ACC. A tournament appearance looks bleaker by the day, granted you can never count out a Jim Boeheim team from squeezing into the tourney.
But with veterans Jalen Carey and Robert Braswell both redshirting due to injury, this is an incredibly young SU team.
Joe Girard continues to struggle, but he has vastly improved since his first games against power five competition versus Oklahoma State, Penn State, and Iowa. Against Notre Dame and Virginia Tech, Girard averaged 16 points and 43 percent from the field. SU needs to continue to improve.
Guerrier is another freshman playing a prominent role for the Orange. And as the season progresses, his role will likely enlarge. He hit double-digits against Notre Dame and Virginia Tech while missing just two shots from the field. However, those two games came after a 0 point outing against the mighty 3-10 Niagara Purple Eagles. Guerrier’s consistency is an issue as it is with most freshman. Unfortunately, this Syracuse team doesn’t have time to wait for Guerrier to work out the kinks, even though he’s very advanced for a freshmen.
Speaking of inconsistency, Dolezaj needs to reach double-digits every game. As a team leader he cannot have six point outings like he did against Virginia Tech. Granted he only played 33 minutes since he fouled out, but it’s time to look at Dolezaj as a player who needs to consistently deliver. Scoring may not be his strong suit, but SU needs him to be aggressive. Gone are the days where the offense gives the ball to Tyus Battle and lets him takeover.
Elijah Hughes doesn’t command an offense like battle. And that’s probably a good thing. For years SU fans bickered about the lack of offensive sets, as SU stood around waiting for Battle to make a play. Hughes’ skill set allows for more fluidity, and other players to get involved. But those players have to hit open shots, and look towards the rim when catching the ball in the paint.
Of course the biggest problem Syracuse faces is at center. Bourama Sidibe is averaging less than six points per game, and shooting under 50 percent from the charity stripe. He is not a starting-caliber center in the ACC. And to make matters worse, the Orange don’t have a center commit to 2020 recruiting class. Losing out to Mike Hopkins and Washington on Isaiah Stewart was a monumental blow.
The most important thing in the next few months is for Syracuse to find a center for next season. It seems incredibly early to look past this season, and in February these freshmen may look much different than right now. But if the Orange actually find a solid big man for next year, it returns a deep talented team. But if it doesn’t find that big man it’s been lacking for years… well we’ve all seen how that’s gone this season.