Today we are rounding out our positional previews ahead of the SU men’s basketball season opener against Bryant on Friday. Fellow fizz members Ian Unsworth and Jaron May took a look at the guards and wings and today we finish up with the BIGS!
This position group looked good at times last year, but in others just terrible. From ticky-tack fouls, to foul trouble itself, and depth as thin as a ziploc bag…this unit was average at best last year. However, this is a new year and all the trials by fire that the bigs endured last year will pay dividends this season. Additionally, there are some new faces on the Hill and others that you’ve heard of but have a chance to really make their name known in the 315.
But first… let me follow suit with Ian and Jaron and give my projected Syracuse depth chart and how many minutes each will likely play [(even though they’ll look very similar ;)].
Point Guard: Joe Girard III (~31), Kadary Richmond (~9)
Shooting Guard: Buddy Boeheim (~30), Kadary Richmond (~6), Alan Griffin (~4)
Small Forward: Alan Griffin (~30), Quincy Guerrier (~10)
Power Forward: Marek Dolezaj (~25), Quincy Guerrier (~15)
Center: Bourama Sidibe (~26), Marek Dolezaj (~5), Jesse Edwards (~5), Frank Anselem (~4)
In terms of this depth chart here there are not many surprises but as well known, Coach Jim Boeheim tends to go no deeper than 8-9 guys on the bench (if that). Syracuse has several talented new faces coming in including Frank Anselem, Kadary Richmond, Woody Newton, and Alan Griffin (via transfer from Illinois). I don’t see Newton cracking the lineup enough to predict minutes, but as you can see Griffin is my starter at SF and I’ve heard great things about Anselem and his athleticism so I think SU finds a way or may need a way to get him in the game for some minutes.
Speaking of bigs, let’s get into this.
Bourama Sidibe: The senior returns for what could be his final year on the Hill, but of course he does have the option to return next season (thx NCAA). Sidibe was Jekyll and Hyde at times last year. When he wasn’t struggling to stay on the floor due to foul trouble, he looked good and the Orange looked good collectively. SU was 10-6 last year when Sidibe played at least 25 minutes. He averaged 24 per game, so if he was in for over 25 it usually meant he was staying out of foul trouble. The Mali-native averaged 4.1 fouls per game last season and fouled out of nine contests and was very close in many others.
But enough about fouling, how about the good? Sidibe led the team in rebounds per game at 7.6 and averaged a healthy 6 points per game. He had 3 double-doubles in the final five games and SU won two of those three. The point to be made here is that Syracuse is at its best when Sidibe is controlling things down low. When he does, he’s grabbing big rebounds defensively and converting others for points on the other side of the floor. Sidibe bulked up over the off-season and should be much more prepared to battle in the paint.
Marek Dolezaj: I only include Dolezaj because Boeheim may need to slide him to the “5” if Sidibe is in foul trouble or if SU wants to play small ball. That being said, I’ll include some points Jaron made in his wings article in case you missed it, but still go check it out to get the scoop on the other wings.
“If you have watched Syracuse basketball in the past few years, you know who Dolezaj is. The senior will always be the hardest worker and the one that gives his all. He is multifaceted on the offensive side– being able to play in the pick and role as well as being able to make his own opportunities off the dribble. Defensively, Dolezaj is a center playing on the wing. He’s listed at 6’10 and is as lanky as lanky can be. Those long arms get in the passing lanes and disrupt what opposing teams are trying to do. Plus, Dolezaj is tough enough to move to the middle and play the center position, but you can learn more about the bigs in a future article. Dolezaj is this team’s heart and sole. The key for him now is to stop fouling. Last season, he averaged 3.3 fouls per game and fouled out of nine contests. If he can cut down on those, Dolezaj will have an even greater impact on his team.”
Jesse Edwards: The sophomore saw it all last season. He played a lot of garbage minutes, but there were stretches where Edwards was SU’s center because Sidibe and Dolezaj were on the bench. Last season, SU had no other options. So Edwards is another player who was baptized by fire last year. Now he’s ready to take a bigger step. He’ll still be a guy that comes off the bench, but I think he gets about 5 minutes per game to help in foul trouble and also give Sidibe a break because maybe that’s a luxury SU will have this year.
Frank Anselem: Here’s some support to the argument that SU will have some solid depth at the big positions. Anselem reclassified from the 2021 class to 2020, so he’s certainly a diaper dandy. However, Anselem has the kind of raw athleticism that no other SU big has. For that reason, I see him as a wild card in the lineup but I think he earns his minutes and shows flashes of that brilliance. Here’s what John Gershon at 247.sports said about Anselem.
“Athletic center with outstanding frame. Good size, wide shoulders and very long arms. Strong kid but not maxed out. Still raw on offense but physical tools give him very high upside. Has budding elbow jumper and hook shot but footwork and post moves can improve. Has chance to be high level rebounder and rim protector given size, length and athleticism. Still inconsistent but upside is very high. Projects as high major starter with professional upside dependent on development of skill.”
John Bol Ajak: I didn’t predict Ajak to get any minutes after taking a redshirt season last year. I think he certainly could see the floor, but I just don’t know. Anselem and Edwards will “steal” his minutes this year, but you may see him at the end of blow outs. However, keep your eye on Ajak for the future. The redshirt-freshman is 6-foot-10, 215 pounds and could have as many as five more seasons on the Hill.