While Syracuse’s showing at Madison Square Garden this past weekend may have dampened expectations for the rest of the season, there is a silver lining. After seeing the poor play of Paschal Chukwu and Bourama Sidibe, 5-star recruit Isaiah Stewart may have realized that there’s an abundance of playing time available at SU.
That’s not to say that Stewart wouldn’t receive immediate playing time at other schools like Duke and Michigan State. He would, he’s the fourth best recruit in the 2019 class according to ESPN. However, besides playing time, the Orange also have the advantage of being close to Stewart’s hometown of Rochester, NY.
The lack of a skilled big man on the current squad will be a problem all season long and could result in a quick bounce from March Madness if SU gets an unlucky matchup. However, adding a player of Stewart’s talent could spur the Orange to a deep postseason run next year.
Against UConn, Syracuse’s weakness at center became blatantly clear as point guard Jalen Carey led the team in rebounds. Meanwhile Huskies forward Eric Cobb corralled a double-double as the senior snagged 13 rebounds and put up 13 points. If Chukwu and Sidibe can’t stop a 6’9” forward from having their way in the paint, there is zero chance the big men can stop ACC bigs like Duke star Zion Williamson.
UConn wasn’t the only team to exploit Syracuse’s weakness at center this weekend. Oregon also used the paint as a blueprint to beat SU. Now, it won’t be every game that SU will face a center like Bol Bol, but Syracuse had nobody to stop him. The Oregon center finished with 26 points, nine boards and swatted everything in sight, finishing with four blocks. He also clogged up passing lanes, ending the game with three steals. Meanwhile Chukwu and Sidibe were non-factors as they combined for two points and five rebounds.
Even though the Orange have a seven-footer of their own in Chukwu, he lacks the muscle or athleticism to dominate the post game. While Stewart is just 6’9”, he has 17 pounds of muscle on Chukwu. That extra weight allows him to bully weaker defenders in the paint.
Finally, the commitment of Joe Girard III, Stewart’s AAU teammate has likely increased the big man’s interest in Syracuse. He also played with Buddy Boeheim on the EYBL circuit.
Of course, even if Stewart picks SU, it will be another year until he would suit up in Orange. For now, Jim Boeheim has to hope his program is too appealing for Stewart to say no.