It seems to happen every couple of seasons, that Syracuse underwhelms throughout the regular season, before everything seems to click days before the postseason. The 2020-21 season was no exception, after SU’s improbable Sweet 16 run ended on Saturday in a 62-46 defeat to No. 2 Houston.
Part of SU’s transformation was due to head coach Jim Boeheim’s lineup changes. Instead of relying on forward Alan Griffin for scoring, Boeheim often inserted redshirt sophomore Robert Braswell into the lineup. With Marek Dolezaj struggling with foul trouble at times, and Quincy Guerrier slowed by injury, Jesse Edwards played major minutes.
Against the Cougars, Syracuse was at its best when Edwards was in the game. Once he was subbed out, Houston took advantage of the smaller Syracuse defense, attacking the paint and Dolezaj.
While it’s unclear whether Bourama Sidibe and Dolezaj will return for another season, it’s become obvious that Edwards is ready for major minutes. Syracuse could benefit from adding a big on the transfer market, and if both veterans don’t return — it may become a necessity.
But over the last eight games of the Orange’s season, Edwards played at least 16 minutes in five of the matchups. While he wasn’t relied on to score, the sophomore’s length disrupted shots in the paint, and made it much more difficult for opponents to grab offensive rebounds.
While he’s still listed at just 215 pounds, Edwards is lankier than any other player in Syracuse’s rotation.
Next season, Syracuse will again not need to rely on its center to score. With Buddy Boeheim already declaring his intention to return, and the potential of Alan Griffin, Quincy Guerrier and Joe Girard returning — Syracuse doesn’t need scoring from its five. Instead it needs a long, shot disruptor who is focused on the glass, grabbing defensive rebounds and creating second-chance opportunities. That’s a skillset Syracuse has been missing for years.