On Saturday, Syracuse dropped a heartbreaker to Notre Dame. It stung even more because it was the same, seemingly unfixable, problem that proved to be Syracuse’s undoing. The center position.
While, the top of the zone showed some flaws with young guards Joe Girard and Buddy Boehiem getting some flack for their perimeter defense, the Orange had a lot of things go their way Saturday and still lost the game.
After all, SU’s five best offensive players (Hughes, Boeheim, Girard, Dolezaj and Guerrier) all had very solid offensive showings. You could even make the case Dolezaj, Boeheim, Guerrier and Girard each played their most complete offensive games of the season, factoring in the level of competition and magnitude of some of the moments in the second half.
The issue is all five of those “best offensive players” don’t have the size to guard a center. And neither does starting center Bourama Sidibe.
Jim Boeheim has been extremely frank in regards to Syracuse this season. He has gone out of his way to say multiple times this team is going to struggle. And when the head coach has been asked about how to fix the lack of front-court presence and defense, he has pretty much admitted there is no solutions (outside of Sidibe, Edwards and Dolezaj magically gaining about 40 pounds).
When there aren’t any realistic solutions you have to point to recruiting and player development. I understand recruiting is a fickle beast and misses happen. If the Orange got Isaiah Stewart, we wouldn’t be having this conversation. And honestly, if Mike Hopkins hadn’t left for Washington, it’s probably pretty safe to assume they would’ve gotten the third best recruit in this past class. But, he left and they didn’t.
So now it’s time to move on. That brings me to perhaps the biggest concern. Where is the 2020 center? I feel like this isn’t being talked about enough.
I understand the situation. The Orange essentially only could recruit two players in this class based on scholarships and they already have two commits in 6-8 slim forward Woody Newtown and 6-5 guard Kadary Richmond. Do I like Newtown and Richmond and believe they are good fits for the zone? Yes. But, let’s be honest here. It’s just more of the same.
Richmond, the best prospect ratings wise of the two, is barely a top 100 guy on ESPN. With the injury to Jalen Carey, SU doesn’t have a single ESPN top 100 player in it’s rotation right now.
I understand Hughes is an anomaly and Guerrier likely would’ve been Top 100 if he wasn’t from Canada. I give the staff credit for both of them, but still. There is a talent issue and specifically a talent issue at center.
And to make matters worse, as it stands right now, that talent issue is going to be the exact same thing next year.
How does this center problem, which is so crippling to the point Syracuse still can’t beat an extremely mediocre Notre Dame team at home despite shooting the lights out of the ball, get better next year? How are we not having this conversation next year?
Some of you may make the case Jesse Edwards is the answer and should already be playing more minutes.
That’s fair. I’m not necessarily against him getting more minutes given how broken the situation is now. However, we need to acknowledge Edwards is still super raw. While he has potential. I don’t see a world where he gets so much better next year that he is ACC starting center caliber. Maybe one day down the road, but sorry it seems far-fetched for that day to be next year. Same goes for current redshirt center John Bol Ajak.
Then there is Sidibe. By now, we know what we’re getting. The sample size is large enough. Even as a senior, I don’t see a way he makes significant enough strides to the point where he is the answer at center next year.
It’s a shame because this Syracuse team seems to kinda be finding something right now. The 3 point shooting, assisting and less iso ball is a very nice change of pace. It’s a much better product. Despite all that, they have one glaring problem that negates essentially all of that. One glaring problem that is only fixable based on better recruiting and talent.
Yet, as of right now Syracuse still hasn’t added anyone at that position next year.
I’m sure the coaching staff will look to change that by attacking the grad transfer market. It’s not too late. But, the pressure is on.
Tape could be that guy. The Columbia transfer is 240 pounds (!). While, non power conference transfers sometimes don’t work out. Tape seems to be a guy that could upgrade Syracuse where they desperately need it.
They better get someone like him to come in at that spot or else we will be having this same conversation next year and it will be, somehow, even more frustrating.