Unless Syracuse goes on an improbable run to finish this season, its NCAA Tournament chances are over. The biggest problem all season long has been the play of the big men, and more specifically Bourama Sidibe.
But in the last three games Sidibe has played at least 25 minutes and grabbed at least 10 rebounds. In a woeful game against North Carolina, Sidibe was one of the few bright spots, finishing with his second consecutive double-double. He also set a season high in points – falling one short of his 18 points against Pittsburgh two years ago – and rebounds with 15. He made 7-8 free throws. Remember, this is a guy who was shooting 46 percent from the charity stripe before the UNC game.
All season long, SU fans have yearned for improvement from Sidibe on the defensive end. Against UNC, Sidibe set a career high with six blocks. UNC’s Garrison Brooks scored a game high 26 points, and was someone we highlighted before this game. All season long bigs have dominated Syracuse, and that happened again on Saturday. Even so, Sidibe played a season high 35 minutes. He wasn’t able to stop Brooks, but he did everything else – which frankly is more than SU can say about its bigs this season.
The obvious reason Sidibe has played just 23 minutes per game is because he consistently commits unnecessary fouls. Having your starting center average 23 minutes is less than ideal, but it’s also not great when said center fouls out in over 30 percent of games.
But in the last three games, Sidibe has been physical, grabbed rebounds, and swatted 11 shots. It’s an incredibly small sample size, and maybe it is just a hot three game stretch. There’s a chance Sidibe cools down and returns to the player he was earlier.
But this stretch is the best Sidibe has ever played – and that’s including his 18 point, 16 rebound performance against Pittsburgh in his freshmen campaign. This is more than a one game showing.
Syracuse will have another season of Sidibe, and he could become the key to an improved team next season. If Sidibe plays next season like he has recently, Syracuse could finally have that solid big it has so desperately missed.