Today, October 14th, marks the start of the 2020-2021 men’s basketball season! Well, kinda. Today, teams are allowed to officially start practicing. This includes Syracuse of course. So, with the season starting to rev up, here are three important questions for the Orange.
How do you replace Elijah Hughes?
It’s a pretty loaded question, right? Replacing the ACC’s leading scorer and an All-ACC First Teamer is no easy task. Hughes was an important piece to the Syracuse defense and pretty much the entire offense. Simply put, SU doesn’t have another Elijah Hughes on its roster right now. So, to replace his production, it’s not going to be one guy. The Orange are going to have to have a committee approach.
Hughes took 465 field goals last season. If you do your math correctly, that is 25% of all field goals taken by the team. So, one player accounted for a quarter of the shots and that player is now gone. You should expect to see Alan Griffin taking a good portion of that offensive output. Buddy Boeheim and Joe Girard will each take more shots too. Boeheim averaged 13.6 field goals per game, while Girard averaged 11 last season. They will both add about three to four more attempts each this year. Plus, Quincy Guerrier and Marek Dolezaj may see a few more shots here and there, but nothing too drastic. Offensively, it will be Griffin, Boeheim, and Girard.
Defensively, Hughes leaves a big gap as well. He was first on the team in blocks per game, second in defensive rebounds per game, and third in steals per game last season. You’d hope Griffin could pick up some of that production, but we don’t know how he will fit into the zone. Plus, he’s only 6’5, 190 lbs. That’s not too big for a guy that will have to fight down low for rebounds. The players that will really need to pick up the defensive slack will be Dolezaj and Guerrier. Both guys are big bodies that can box out, are athletic enough to get in the passing lanes, and have been at SU long enough to know the zone.
What does the rotation look like?
The rotation won’t change all that much from last year to this year. Replace Hughes with Griffin and that is pretty much it. The starting five should be:
PG- Joe Girard
SG- Buddy Boeheim
SF- Alan Griffin
PF- Marek Dolezaj
C- Bourama Sidibe
The sixth man will most likely be Guerrier again. We know that Jim Boeheim likes to keep his rotation tight, so that is probably the main six players you’ll see on a nightly basis. If he does have to go deeper because of foul trouble (which is going to happen a lot), a bigger lineup will bring Jesse Edwards in and a smaller lineup will call on Kadary Richmond. I’d expect the smaller lineup to be used more than the bigger one, but that depends on the game and the opponent.
What is this team’s ceiling?
Without a schedule released yet, it is difficult to predict Syracuse’s record or ceiling. However, in a season that will be impacted by COVID-19, it is a safe assumption to think that it will be an ACC-only schedule. There may be two or three non-conference games, but don’t expect it to be a normal, full non-conference slate. If that is true, the Orange’s chances at having a good year goes down.
Syracuse likes to use the first couple games of the season to shake the cobwebs off and figure some things out before ACC play. It makes sense. Especially this season with a lot of new faces and losing your star, the Orange need that non-conference buffer. I mean, take a look at what happened the last time SU started with an ACC game. The Orange only scored 34 points and got manhandled by Virginia. Without non-conference play, Syracuse may struggle at the beginning, which may impact the rest of its season.
So, here’s the answer to the question– I think a strong bubble team is Syracuse’s ceiling. Again, it’s difficult to predict this early, but if the Orange are better than a bubble team, I would be pleasantly surprised.