Just 4 minutes into the opening game of the season opposing Bryant, Bourama Sidibe suffered a knee injury he’s still tolerating. That injury has left Marek Dolezaj to man the anchor position of the 2-3 zone, which has proved problematic at times for the Orange. Against Miami, Syracuse fans saw something they loved, a huge run that gave Boeheim’s squad the upper hand they wouldn’t relinquish. The run was triggered by a lineup change, Jesse Edwards and Kadary Richmond entered the game. Edwards hasn’t been the most reliable player in the past, so to stick him under the basket after Dolezaj fell into foul trouble was certainly a risk, one that paid off. The Dutch big played 23 minutes, the most of his career, in which he proved he should be out there much more often. Obviously, Dolezaj is the more talented player, but playing nearly 40 minutes out of position game-in game-out would take a toll on anybody, it definitely has on the Slovakian. We’ve been seeing the senior fall into foul trouble much more quickly as of late, as well as his play generally declining. Last night, Dolezaj failed to score in an SU blowout win, corralling only 4 rebounds while fouling 4 times. It’s not that Dolezaj needs to ride the bench, he just needs someone to relieve him of the center position. That’s where Jesse Edwards comes in. Edwards’ 7 points and 6 rebounds helped SU get on and continue its run last night.
Now, does Edwards need to start? Not necessarily, but at the same time why not? There’s been plenty of talk about this team struggling due to Bourama’s absence, why not replace him with a guy who’s similar in stature rather than the undersized Dolezaj?
This brings us back to the question that’s hung around all season thus far, what is the best starting lineup? The 5 guys that completed the run were:
PG: Kadary Richmond
SG: Joe Girard III
SF: Buddy Boeheim
PF: Quincy Guerrier
C: Jesse Edwards
Is this the most talented lineup? No, it’s not, but it could be the one that is best for this team. Along with Edwards playing well, Girard and Boeheim played out of their skin, seemingly breaking out of the shooting slumps they seemed to be trapped in. For Girard at least it was clear that he flourished playing off the ball. The only problem is, Richmond really can’t start, he’s not ready for those kinds of minutes. The freshman has played well, but doing it for 35+ minutes is a different challenge. Edwards is another story, however. The sophomore big can do it, and quite frankly has to if this team is going to win conference games. It’s not like Edwards played against a weak non-conference center last night either. Miami’s Nysier Brooks isn’t an easy player to beat on paper, he has an inch and 25 pounds on Edwards, but you wouldn’t know it by watching the game.
It’ll be interesting to see what kind of minutes Coach Boeheim decides to allocate to young guys against No. 15 Virginia Tech. If we learned anything from the 19th, Edwards and Richmond need to play.