To say Syracuse struggled without Jerami Grant on the floor would be an understatement. The forward was been plagued by lower back problems down the stretch, and his discomfort led to a few shaky games by the Orange. After a strong showing against Duke in which he played 34 minutes and added 17 points, Grant played only 26 minutes in the Orange’s next three games. Grant didn’t play in Syracuse’s home loss to Georgia Tech, a huge reason the Orange lost to a bad Jackets squad.
Jim Boeheim was judicious in his use of Grant down the stretch, and that hopefully helped Grant be ready for the NCAA Tournament. He did play in the ACC Tournament (despite the loss to NC State). The Orange clearly needs a fresh start, and it’ll hopefully get that in Buffalo. Grant likely benefitted from a few more days of rest.
Syracuse absolutely needs Grant’s production if it hopes to make a run in the NCAA tournament. Grant is the Orange’s leading rebounder with 6.7 per game. His nearly 12 points per game, paint presence, and ability to post defenders helps diversify the Syracuse offense, too. He is crucial on putbacks under the glass, and takes some needed pressure off the other starters. Western Michigan out-rebounded Toledo 46-27 in the MAC Title Game. The Broncos also put up 98 points in 40 minutes. The Orange need Grant on the boards and offense to counter punch WMU.
It’s unclear whether health is a factor in how the Selection Committee seeds teams. Would Kansas be higher if Joel Embiid were 100%? Syracuse has a healthy Grant (we presume) and maybe that’s why the Orange didn’t fall below the 3-seed despite all those losses at the end of the year. The Orange has been relegated to a three-player offense. Unfortunately, because of Trevor Cooney’s remarkable cold streak, limitations of Rak Christmas and a shallow bench, the scoring load falls on CJ Fair, Tyler Ennis and Grant. If one of those guys is injured or not hitting, the offensive burden is often too much to overcome. Having Grant back in there is vital for SU making any type of run in Buffalo and beyond. Thankfully Jerami is back on the court. Without him Syracuse’s chances would be even slimmer.
Posted: Jason Weingold