Even if you are someone who is positive it is hard not to feel deflated after last night’s, 90-66, loss at Louisville.
It wasn’t even like Louisville did anything incredible. Sure, they are a good team at home that had the pieces to beat the zone. They were hungry after dropping two in a row and played pretty well. But, more than anything that was Syracuse getting exposed. That was the lack of talent. The dip in recruiting. The lack of development at center. All of it, coming to the forefront.
“Given what resources we have, what players we have, we’ve had some incredible games,” Boeheim said last night about the season. Complimenting the fight of his team this year.
At this point, that season is pretty much over. Unless the Orange win the ACC tournament, it’s NIT for the second time in four years. So let’s look ahead to next year.
The obvious elephant is Elijah Hughes. He likely isn’t coming back. Hughes turns 22 in early March. He is a fourth-year junior after transferring from East Carolina. This is a weak draft class and the athletic forward has been getting a lot of buzz lately. His game is built pretty nicely for the NBA.
For the purpose of this discussion, let’s assume he goes. Then this becomes Buddy Boeheim, Joe Girard and Quincy Guerrier’s team next year. All three will have great careers with Syracuse and great seasons next year. That’s an exciting bunch that will continue to grow. Quincy has shown flashes, like his 14 & 12 last night. He has all kinds of potential and could be the best player on the team next year once his jumpshot translates from warm-ups to the game and he learns the zone some more.
The problem is all three of those guys can’t play center. None of those guys can play the crucial anchor part of the 2-3 zone. Currently, Syracuse has no centers incoming in the 2020 class. They need one, badly. Whether it’s Columbia grad transfer Patrick Tape or four-star Cliff Omoruyi.
If they don’t add a center next year, this is just going to be more of the same. Bourama Sidibe is not making a jump at this point. If it hasn’t clicked, it won’t click next year. Jesse Edwards, while he has great offensive potential, is still only 216 pounds currently. Do you really think by next year he will be playing solid defense in the zone? Will he be able to handle a team like Louisville in that spot next year?
Sorry, but no. Not as a sophomore given how raw he is. Let’s remember this is a down year in the ACC. SU has maybe beat one tourney team all year long and it’s Virginia–who they split the series with and they may not even make the tournament. Any time they have played anyone with any competent post presence, the Orange have lost. With the exception of John Mooney and Notre Dame round II. Jim Boeheim has been blunt and admitted that all year long.
“We can’t throw to those guys (interior players). Any of those inside guys…we don’t have a post presence,” Boeheim said. “I wish we were better. I wish we were doing something wrong that we could correct, but we’re just not quite good enough.”
That’s the quote that stands out most for me. That’s a coach admitting defeat. He has said it all year. They don’t have the interior guys. Well, why is there a world where he isn’t saying the same thing next year?
Chances are SU will see some stronger centers next year in ACC play, considering how down the conference is. Maybe John Bol Ajak makes crazy strides and is an impact freshman, but even he is still skinny (6-10, 215).
This may seem like someone slamming the panic button. Syracuse did just get a five-star commit in Dior Johnson who may even bring in some more five-stars. But, you better hope he brings in a five-star center. They need to get a commitment from a center. Someone who is ready to play and has some strength on him. If Mike Hopkins hadn’t left that likely would’ve been Isaiah Stewart, but that’s in the past now.
The Syracuse backcourt is going to be very strong next year. But, it might not matter. They were great this year and it clearly didn’t matter.
Even if Hughes comes back, a team with a post presence is going to beat SU almost every time. It will be the same problem all over again, just in a tougher ACC and it will somehow be even more frustrating to watch because that will mark the sixth straight year of watching a mediocre bubble team win roughly 60 percent of its games.