It’s not inherently in the blood of fans to assume that next season is going to be worse than the past one. Take Major League Baseball for example. On Opening Day, fans all across the nation are excited because their team has a shot to win it all. But deep down, whether they want to admit it or not, fans know if their team is any good.
SU fans know that without Elijah Hughes, Syracuse will tumble through the 2020-21 season. Excuse me for a doom and gloom attitude, but Hughes isn’t returning. He’s already graduated and was one of the best players in the ACC. He also saw what happened to Tyus Battle after staying a year too long.
Looking ahead to next year’s team, there’s some good pieces. Marek Dolezaj’s continued growth will be fun to watch. As will Buddy Boeheim and Joe Girard’s likely improved touch from deep.
There’s a few guys who could unexpectedly boost the ceiling of the program. Kadary Richmond and Woody Newton are unknowns. Maybe one of them comes in and is better than anyone expected. It happened with Oshae Brissett in his freshman season. But that’s a pipe dream. Theoretically any freshmen could step foot on the court and be way better than anyone thought. It’s just not very realistic.
The more likely X factor is Alan Griffin, but expecting an incoming transfer to be the star of the team is quite a task.
Assuming all four returning starters improve, is that enough to make up for Hughes leaving? The small forward position is obviously the biggest question mark heading into next season. Griffin, Quincy Guerrier, and heck even Robert Braswell are all names that have been mentioned for the spot.
Griffin is probably the best option, but that doesn’t mean he’s nearly the player Hughes is. Guerrier is better positioned at power forward and should swiftly step into Dolezaj’s starting role in a couple of seasons. He’s a spark plug off the bench but unless he becomes a better shooter, he probably won’t start at the 3. That’s not to say he has to hit the deep ball at Hughes percentages. If he hit a third of his threes – like Brissett in his first season – that’s probably good enough.
As for Braswell, he’s played a grand total of 103 minutes at Syracuse. He looks like a talented player with a nice midrange shot. But with just eight college three attempts to his name, the sample size is too small to declare him a good shooter. It’s promising that he’s shooting and making threes. But he has to be more of an offensive threat to lock down the small forward position.
Braswell has played well when he’s had an opportunity. Injuries, depth, and a small rotation have limited his opportunities. And while he’s listed at 6-foot-7, a two inch drop from what he entered college at, he’s generally played at power forward. It’s a big leap to expect a player who’s averaged around two points per game to start next season, especially as he recovers from an injury that forced him to redshirt.