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It’s Gameday! What Questions Are Still Unanswered About Syracuse?

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There are plenty of question marks entering the ‘21-’22 basketball season. Many have been well documented, while a couple aren’t as publicized, but here at Fizz, we have you covered.

Here are the questions that have yet to be answered:

Is Buddy Boeheim worthy of national recognition?

Ever since his spurt in March Madness, Boeheim has garnered a plethora of attention. That includes a Preseason All-American nod, Preseason ACC First-Team, Jerry West Award Preseason Watch List (honors the best shooting guard in the nation) and he landed on the Player of the Year Watch List.

But was his postseason burst just a one-in-a-career type stretch?

Boeheim’s 15 regular season double figure scoring games would say otherwise. But even with the amount he scored, his efficiency is lacking, especially from long range. The senior has never averaged at least 40% from beyond the arc in a single season. Although that’s a tough feat to accomplish, Boeheim’s prowess puts him in a category with the best long distance shooters in the country, but the numbers on a consistent basis don’t show.

With that in mind, his 18 points per game and burst in the biggest moments support his case as the most integral part of this group. In seven of his last ten games in the spring, Boeheim eclipsed 20 points, including a pair of 30 point contests in which he shot over 60% from three in both games. This further proves that consistency is up in the air, but when it really matters, the coach’s son takes advantage in the spotlight.

How good is Joe Girard III?

In high school, Girard was unstoppable; in college, the Glens Falls native is okay. His shooting is subpar when compared to expectations. The junior’s 43% clip from three-point range is a flawed statistic because of how poor he is when penetrating within the arc.

It also doesn’t help that SU’s #1 point guard is a turnover machine. That came with the territory of three per game last season. It’s also concerning when a recruit, known as a sharpshooter, struggles from the free-throw line. Girard shot a measly 67% from the charity stripe, a precarious position for Syracuse, who couldn’t rely on its main ball handler to knock down open shots from anywhere.

He’s also way too hot and cold for the college level, when opportunities aren’t as even keel, and other talent on the team get their chances. This is by far the biggest question the Orange have to deal with after hedging their bets with Girard over the clearly ascending Kadary Richmond.

Who is SU’s go-to at the center position?

Without Bourama Sidibe for at least a month, SU is forced to deal its pair of bigs with a bunch of unknowns.

Jesse Edwards played really well to close out last season, but what many disregard is that it was on limited minutes. The center snagged rebounds left and right and was a force down low in just 12 minutes per game. Plus, all that production occurred in the final five games of the year. This miniscule workload shouldn’t give fans confidence that Edwards can sustain over 25 minutes a game in an extended role.

In fact, Syracuse often deferred to playing a small lineup, with Marek Dolezaj at the “5”, rather than allowing a big man to clog up the middle.

Frank Anselem is also a huge unknown. The former four-star played a total of 26 minutes last season. That’s concerning due to SU’s lack of depth at center.

It also doesn’t help that the Orange don’t have much of a backup plan in regards to playing small. No Dolezaj means no other option than Edwards or Anselem on the floor. Before bringing up the possibility of Jimmy Boeheim and Cole Swider manning the center spot, Coach Boeheim already denied the chance of that happening. If Sidibe, Edwards and Anselem don’t perform at a high level, there isn’t much of an alternative that SU can rely on.

Is Benny Williams for real?

The veterans are set to play their part this season, and most expect them to perform well due to the experience they enter with. That includes the Boeheim brothers, Cole Swider, Symir Torrence and Joe Girard. But one name that should be a valuable rotation piece is in a class of his own (quite literally, as the only freshman) and has never seen stout conference competition.

Williams is key to the success of Syracuse. He adds to a three-player bench unit that provides athleticism, flare and rest for the starters. The IMG academy graduate also acts as an unpredictable piece who’s a couple tweaks to his shot away from building up an already dangerous offense.

He’s a D1 ready piece off the bench, which Syracuse hasn’t had for a really long time, and a player who is much more than a pon until a starter is ready to re-enter. Williams has a legitimate chance to be SU’s best newcomer based off his high ceiling and how he’ll positively impact the starters.

Other questions to consider:

Is SU too reliant on the three ball? That’s the Orange’s identity, and one that plagued them in the Sweet 16 against Houston in March.

How much does rebounding take a dive with the departures of Dolezaj, Quincy Guerrier and Alan Griffin? The tandem of Guerrier and Griffin snacthed over 15 rebounds a game, while this year’s Syracuse team was outrebounded at the half to both Pace and Le Moyne in last week’s exhibitions. 

Can SU be a great regular season team, or just a great tournament team? Three sweet 16 appearances in the last five years, but a combined regular season record of 98-67.

Of course there are plenty more, but those will be addressed when the team takes the court tonight and onward throughout the season. 

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The Fizz is owned, edited and operated by Damon Amendolara. D.A. is an ’01 Syracuse graduate from the Newhouse School with a degree in Broadcast Journalism.

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