On Monday, Syracuse basketball received some good news when center Bourama Sidibe announced he will return to the Orange for his fifth season. Sidibe was expected to be Syracuse’s starting center this past season, before going down with a knee injury in the first game of the season against Bryant.
Initially, Sidibe was only expected to be out for about a month, but only played in one more game — against Clemson. On the season, Sidibe played a total of 15 minutes.
It appeared that Sidibe turned a corner at the end of his junior season, and expectations were high for his senior season. By the end of his junior year, Sidibe was averaging nearly eight rebounds per game, and scored in double figures in three of the last five games, before COVID-19 canceled postseason play.
If he can stay healthy, Sidibe should immediately be inserted as the starting center for the Orange. He’s the best interior defender and rebounder on the roster, with the most experience in the 2-3 zone. His offensive game also seemed to improve at the end of the 2020 season.
The biggest question mark for Sidibe, is if he can stay healthy. Without Sidibe, Marek Dolezaj was forced to play out of position, as an undersized five. Eventually, sophomore Jesse Edwards developed enough to become a consistent member of the rotation, and was one of the best players for the Orange in its last game of the season against Houston.
Unlike last season, Syracuse has options on the roster if Sidibe is unable to play. He still hasn’t been cleared to play, but has been doing physical therapy and recovery. If he is healthy, he immediately improves the starting lineup, giving Syracuse a reliable presence in the paint. That also creates a stronger second unit with Edwards coming off the bench to give Sidibe breathers.
If Sidibe once again deals with injury issues, Syracuse has a solid contributor and Edwards. Frank Anselem will also be in his second season in the program, and may have the most potential of any big on the roster.
For SU, Sidibe’s return could be a major factor in the construction of next season’s team. If Sidibe can stay healthy, he has the potential to pick up double-doubles somewhat frequently. Of course, if he still deals with injuries, Syracuse has back-up options in place.