With two months left in the regular season, there is still a lot to learn about the Orange. Our first look at Syracuse in 2020 comes on Saturday inside the Carrier Dome against Notre Dame. At 8-5, the Orange have their work cut out for them if they want to earn their third-straight NCAA Tournament birth.
There are still plenty of questions to be answered about a team that has looked lost at many different points this year.
What’s the rotation going to look like?
So much for Syracuse playing eight or even nine guys this year. Oh, what a magical time the offseason is. Head Coach Jim Boeheim has made it clear that he expects the rotation to be tight in the ACC. How tight? So far, only two non-starters are averaging over 10 minutes of action: Quincy Gurrier (16.6 minutes) and Brycen Goodine (11.3 minutes). Considering Goodine sat on the bench for three-straight games in December, it seems unlikely that he’ll be a significant factor. Reserve Howard Washington could steal Goodine’s minutes in conference play. As for Gurrier, Boeheim still considers him to be a key for the Orange. The freshman forward will almost certainly see consistent playing time.
The Orange are likely to only play 6-7 guys in conference play, depending on specific matchups and foul situations. We could see more Jesse Edwards at center if he shines this week in his return from a sprained ankle.
What the Orange’s magic number for the tournament?
After an inconsistent start to the year, the odds are stacked against the Orange. They’ll have to overachieve in league play if they want any shot at making the NCAA Tournament. The problem? It’s hard to say how many games they would need to win. Frankly, the ACC isn’t as good as it normally is. That could actually be bad news for the Orange as they search for quadrant one wins. At this point, those opportunities will be few and far between. Syracuse likely needs several wins in games against Virginia (away), Duke (home), NC State (home), Florida State (away) and Louisville (road).
The Orange need to finish the year with 10-12 wins to have a realistic shot at making the tournament. On top of that, they need to knock off at least two of the teams mentioned above. Given SU’s track record, that’s not out of the question. Let’s see if they can go out and make it happen again.
Will Joe Girard turn on the heat?
Ever since Girard’s 24-point performance against Seattle, fans have been yearning for more. The highly-touted recruit flaunted his ability to score at a high level. Since then, Girard has only scored 20 points in one game (Oakland). He’s shooting 32% from downtown. Simply put: that’s not the kind of player he is. Girard is a dynamic scorer that is still finding his game at the college level. We now get to see if he can put it all together late in the season, much like Buddy Boeheim did in conference play a year ago. Girard’s aggressive nature will keep active on the offensive end. If the shots start going down, look out. Girard has the firepower to propel the Orange back to the tournament.