The season is off to a fast start as the Orange has won its first two games of the year, Friday against Kennesaw State and Sunday against Hampton. Syracuse won the two games by a combined 65 points, but after Sunday’s game Jim Boeheim reminded the media that the Orange won’t win many games by 49 like it did against Kennesaw State. Here are five quick things we know after the two weekend games.
1. BJ Johnson will play a big role this year:
In this year’s case of “the Orange has a player who starts but doesn’t really play,” Johnson came in Sunday after just two minutes of game time to spell Tyler Roberson. This could be something we see a lot of this year. Johnson played well, he knocked down a few threes, proved he could rebound and played good defense. Johnson played well enough that he might have cut into Tyler Roberson’s minutes even more than he already had. The biggest key to Johnson’s play that really separates him from Roberson is his ability and willingness to shoot the ball. Roberson was tentative at times and hesitated in shooting, while BJ shot when he got a good opportunity.
2. Michael Gbinije’s versatility is on full display:
Gbinije did not play in the season opener against Kennesaw State, missing the game with what Boeheim called a “team issue.” So instead, Gbinije made his season debut Sunday against Hampton. Aside from a little rustiness in the first half, Gbinije did basically what was expected of him. He totaled 23 minutes, more than Tyler Roberson and almost the same amount of time as Chris McCullough. Gbinije saw time at both guard spots and even both forward spots, posting up as the power forward on a few possessions. After the game, Gbinije was asked about being used at so many positions, he said it was fun and he is good with it but “I won’t comment on playing the four,” adding that it was a little weird.
3. Kaleb Joseph is not Tyler Ennis:
He also isn’t MCW, or Brandon Triche, or Scoop, or Johnny Flynn, so let’s stop with all the comparisons to other point guards. Let’s allow Joseph to grow and become the point guard that this team needs this season. He has gotten off to a bit of a slow start, but as Boeheim said after the game, “not many freshman point guards can come in and make an impact right away.” We tend to forget, Tyler Ennis was the exception, and not the rule. Joseph will eventually straighten his play out and be more consistent, but for right now, we need to let him ride out the growing pains of being a true freshman starting point guard in a big time program.
4. Rakeem Christmas has made some adjustments:
No more of the “Rak looked good but…” conversation. On Sunday, Rak looked good, period. He tallied 15 points and grabbed 16 rebounds. He is getting used to being the main offensive option on a team, and Boeheim acknowledged after the game, that takes a pretty big adjustment. Six of his 16 rebounds came on the offensive glass. Granted, Rak was the tallest player on the court, but it is still important that he crashes the offensive boards and gets the Orange those second chance points.
5. The front court depth will be challenged:
Both Christmas and Chris McCullough picked up four fouls on the afternoon. Boeheim still has no confidence in Chinonso Obokoh. Tyler Roberson seems to be the starter who gets taken out right away, after he played just 16 minutes on Sunday. As mentioned above, Michael Gbinije played the power forward spot for a stretch against Hampton. If Gbinije needs to play the four against a “Power 5” school, he will be exposed. It is extremely important for Christmas to stay out of foul trouble. Almost as importantly, it is important for the Orange to get DaJuan Coleman healthy. On Orange Fizz Radio last weekend, we spoke to Mike Waters from the Post-Standard. He told us that even if Coleman can play just 10 minutes per game, it would be a huge advantage for the Orange. 10 minutes from Coleman would be 10 minutes that Christmas can rest—and not pick up fouls. It also gives Boeheim another big body to put in the games without needing to use Michael Gbinije as a power forward.
Extra Fizz: Jim Boeheim
The Per’fessor tallied his 950th win on Sunday against Hampton. He remains 34 wins behind Mike Krzyzewski of Duke as of Monday morning. With the Boeheim’s “best recruiting class ever” coming up to the Hill next fall, it is not out of the question for Boeheim to win #1000 towards the end of next year. Even at 70 years old—today is the coach’s birthday—he is still going strong.
Posted: Seth Goldberg