SU basketball got off to a shaky start this season. Sure, the Orange began the 2020-21 campaign with plenty of victories, but not many were convincing, and once conference play began things looked sour. Two losses to Pitt made this team look juvenile. Heading into the game against Miami it felt as if it could’ve been the contest that certified SU as the worst team in the ACC. Obviously, SU came to play against the Hurricanes and showed signs of life we hadn’t seen prior this year. Then, this past Saturday came in which the Orange ran the 16th ranked Hokies out of the building. It seems that you never quite know which team will show up on gameday.
Each member of the starting five aside from Quincy Guerrier could unsurprisingly provide 20 points or 5 on any given night. This isn’t a new issue however, it’s something SU struggled with mightily last year as well. The conversation seemed to center around the problem of Elijah Hughes being red hot when Buddy Boeheim and Joe Girard were cold or vice versa. This season it’s a little different as there’s no main scorer to rely on like Hughes. Instead, SU has to hope each member on the floor can provide points. Illinois-transfer, Alan Griffin at times has been a huge addition to this lineup, other times he’s simply an annoyance. On good days Griffin could be the most exciting player on the floor, supplying highlight reel plays like putback slams, huge blocks, and step back threes, but other times he just jacking up shots and flying erratically around the court. There’s no doubt he’s a talented player, but often can be a detriment.
The backcourt has been similar. Girard of course started the season pretty cold. He didn’t seem to take the leap fans and media expected him to. Though at times this year he’s deserved more credit than given. Opposing Boston College, Georgetown, Miami this season Girard scored high into double digits and did it pretty efficiently. Obviously his poor performances are much more frequent but at least he shows he can still be effective at the 1. The coach’s son hasn’t been too much better. He scores more than his counterpart, Girard, but that’s because he’s taking many more shots. The junior finished three games this season without a make from behind the arc.
For a guy who’s entire game is spot-up perimeter shooting, that’s simply unacceptable. This team shouldn’t be expected to win games when one of it’s primary scoring options is entirely inept. Now you should cut both these guys a little slack, Coach Boehiem did announce that they both tested positive for COVID-19 earlier in the season, and there’s no doubt that took a toll on their ability on the court. Against Miami they both shot the lights out scoring 23 a piece, maybe it’s time to give them another chance.
Marek Dolezaj has had a seemingly insurmountable challenge this season. The 6’10’’ 200 lbs Slovakian has been shoved underneath the basket, filling in for Bourama Sidibe who’s dealing with a knee injury. As we all know, Dolezaj has the most hustle/toughness of any guy on the team and possibly the country, but even he can’t fend off ACC bigs night-in night-out. The poor guy needs a break. What you have to understand is each one of these guys Marek matches up against has at least 30 pounds on him and often a couple inches too. Somehow, the senior has been able to overcome this challenge at times and provide much needed scoring for this squad, but other times he’s straight up out of gas. Another guy you can’t exactly rely on to come out and be great every single night. A prime example are the last several games the Orange played:
@ UNC: 6 points, 1 rebound
@ Pitt: 14 points, 3 rebounds
Miami: 0 points, 4 rebounds
Virginia Tech: 18 points, 6 rebounds
Obviously, matchups play a part in those numbers, but in the ACC, every team is going to have a guy that will match up well against Dolezaj inside.
Ultimately, if the Orange are to win this season they’ve got to figure out how to get points every single night. No one is a definite bucket besides Guerrier. To once again reach the NCAA tournament, finding consistency should be on the top of the to-do list for Coach Boeheim.