Syracuse Center, Bourama Sidibe was sidelined with a torn meniscus in SU’s opener against Bryant. The big man played just four minutes before going down. Fast forward a couple of weeks Sidibe had surgery and the Orange have had their ups and downs, most notably a historic triumph over Boston College and lesser performances against Rutgers and Northeastern. The biggest question has become, “Who sits when Bourama returns?” The best answer is nobody.
Last season the lineup we saw most often excluded Quincy Guerrier, this season that’s not really an option. The candyman has been SU’s best player, and it’s not all that close. He’s the reason SU prevailed on Wednesday and has proven himself as one of this team’s most reliable scorers and without a doubt its best rebounder. There’s not much justification for benching Quincy. So how about the guy playing the middle right now? There are a few things we know about Marek Dolezaj. He’s tough, he’s a fan favorite, he’s the smartest player on the floor, and he’s undersized. Having the Slovakian on the floor at all times will always be a plus, but against big men that have the ability to push him around, he’ll struggle. Don’t expect him to turn into Rony Seikaly by the time ACC play rolls around. He’ll never be the defender the middle of the zone needs. So should he be substituted? Obviously not. Dolezaj regardless of position finds a way to help facilitate the ball on offense and win the ball on defense, whether that be by way of steal or forcing an offensive foul. The Senior is far too smart as well as effective on the offensive end to be sitting on the bench. How about the guy who took Elijah Hughes’ spot in the lineup then? Alan Griffin has been hot and cold in his first season on the hill. The Illinois transfer shot just 9-28 against Bryant and Niagara combined, but came out hot against Rider and finished strong against Rutgers. He was a heavy contributor to SU’s blowout victory over BC but then struggled once again when lining up back in the Dome to face Northeastern. At this point, it’s too early to tell what kind of player he’ll be long term, but his offensive production can be the best on the floor at any given moment, that’s something this team can’t afford to leave on the bench. As for Girard and Boeheim, it would be difficult to argue that either should ride the pine, especially after Girard came out firing against BC and put up 21 against Northeastern (even if it wasn’t the strongest 21-point performance). At this point, it’s unrealistic to bench either of them.
Sidibe, while yes, does provide solid support inside at times, is not effective enough to warrant a starting spot on this team. It’s not like we’re talking about a player who provides a double-double or near that every time he’s out on the floor. The Senior averaged 6 points and 7.6 boards last season, not to mention he usually fouled out close to or just after the half. The Mali native fouled out of 10 games last season and was one away from doing so 16 times! If his biggest asset is his defense, he should be Boeheim’s 7th guy. A situation in which you bring him off the bench when you need a stop. The 6-’10’’ 210 lb big provides little to no help on the offensive end and fouls the majority of his time on defense.
The best lineup Syracuse has is the one it put out last Wednesday:
As is well-documented, Coach Boeheim runs 8 guys maximum. The 6th, 7th, and 8th should be:
That way the young talent still gets onto the floor while starting the most talented 5. If Dolezaj has trouble with a bigger matchup, Sidibe can always come off the bench to provide assistance. If you’re still unconvinced, here’s a question for you: Would Sidibe’s defense be the deciding factor in any of SU’s wins this season?