Kennesaw State? Check. Hampton, you’re up next.
Two days after demolishing an undersized Kennesaw State team, the Orange will be back on its home court playing a team with better guards than the Fighting Owls. The Pirates feature two guards listed at 6-feet-6 and 6-feet-7 that combined for 26 points in the team’s loss against Iowa.
This matchup will be particularly interesting because of the Orange’s guard play, too. Against the Owls, Kaleb Joseph and the Orange guards struggled mightily. Joseph definitely looked like a true freshman playing in his first official game, and the lineup surely missed Michael Gbinije, who sat out for undisclosed reasons. He will be back to help the guards today, however.
The transfer will not only provide experience and length at the top and bottom of the zone, but also some perimeter scoring. The Orange shot just 4-of-15 from behind the arc on Friday – something that the team needs to improve on if it wants to contend. Gbinije was 2-of-7 in the two exhibition games and shot 35 percent from three last season.
Most importantly, Gbinije will provide versatility on the court for the Orange. The guard/forward can play four of the five positions in the zone and has an enormous wingspan to create turnovers. The Orange forced 15 turnovers against the Owls and the Pirates turned the ball over 17 times against the Hawkeyes.
Gbinije transferred to Syracuse from Duke two years ago and played sparingly in his first season with the Orange. Averaging less than 15 minutes a game, he contributed only 3.4 points and less than two rebounds per game. His most productive game was against his former team on the road, when he dropped eight points and played 20 minutes.
The junior’s first performance of the season will be a huge indicator for the rest of the season. As the team’s “sixth man,” Gbinine will be a huge part of the team’s rotation going forward. He will have a role similar to that of Dion Waiters and Jerami Grant off of the bench. Both were eventually chosen in the first round of the NBA Draft. This year’s team, which is expected to struggle offensively, will definitely need a spark off the bench.
Gbinije has a unique opportunity to affect the game more than some of the starters will. He is going to be counted on to play huge minutes down the stretch of tough games and will have to score some points in this big role. Whether or not he can handle the pressure is yet to be determined, but his season opener today will set the tone for the rest of the season. If he struggles, it will open the door for BJ Johnson, who made the most of his minutes on Friday.
Posted: Jason Weingold