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Grading Syracuse Through the Non-Conference Slate

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After a 80-68 win over Cornell which was a bit scarier than most Syracuse fans would’ve liked, the Orange have completed the non-conference portion of their schedule. SU is now looking forward to conference play, beginning with Virginia on New Year’s Day. However, it’s time for the Fizz to look back at the non-conference, and throw down some semester grades for Jim Boeheim’s team.

Coaching: B

Say what you want about the upheaval in the offseason, but this is now the hand Syracuse has to play. All things considered, Coach Boeheim has done more tinkering with this year’s team than he has in the past. The 1-3-1 was a historic change. In year 47, Boeheim has to get some credit for his adjustment. Add to that the work of Allen Griffin to bring along Jesse Edwards, but some inability to make in-game tweaks leaves this coaching staff with a “meh” start to the season.

Scheduling: C-

Now this isn’t on the team, but for a year when SU could’ve used some “gimmie” games, the Battle 4 Atlantis, Indiana, Florida State, Villanova and Georgetown is a brutal stretch. However, there is a lot of room for this team to firstly improve, and secondly make its way back into the national spotlight with a couple of major ACC victories. The conference is not strong, and beating other basketball brand names (UVA, UNC, FSU, etc) could vault Syracuse into headlines. The question becomes whether those wins are strong enough to build a tournament resume.

Buddy Boeheim: B-

Buddy is Buddy. He’ll score 20 points a night, but a lot of those outputs are coming on games of at least 15 shot attempts. It’s nice to see a continuously improving handle, as well as some vision to boot, but Buddy and everyone else knows his skill that powers the Orange to success and his ticket to reach the NBA is his three-point shooting. Thirty-one percent from behind the arc is not going to cut it going forward.

Joe Girard: A-

When you mention improvement in 2021, two names immediately come to mind. The first is Girard, who is focusing on becoming a “true point guard.” His ability to find others has been questioned, and the Glens Falls native is answering those inquiries with eight games of over five assists. There will always be those “Joe” moments, where he jacks a bad shot, or spaces out on defense. But Girard has had many more good than bad games.

Jimmy Boeheim: A

The elder Boeheim has been the model of consistency. He’s a lock to score the first basket of the game and to give SU double digits on a nightly basis. He doesn’t commit bad fouls, or shoot from beyond his range. Everything Jimmy Boeheim does benefits the Orange, and there’s nothing more you could ask of a grad transfer (It’s probably because he knows the system well).

Jesse Edwards: A-

Edwards was a man possessed in the Bahamas, dropping 21 points against Arizona State and 17 against Auburn. He hasn’t been at that level since coming back to the States, but the Dutchman has shown improved touch and finesse around the rim, and been a major factor defensively, swatting 31 shots. Edwards has earned the center spot, and no matter how healthy Bourama Sidibe becomes, it is Jesse’s role to lose.

Cole Swider: C

Swider had a semi-breakout game against the Big Red, but everyone’s still waiting for his true form: a three-point marksman who is efficiently shooting the rock. Swider has the lowest field goal percentage of any of SU’s starters, and hasn’t shown enough consistency where Orange fans can be confident he’ll hit the big shot. Five points against your former team isn’t a good look. He also struggled with foul trouble against other power five opponents, which can’t continue with a weak bench (see below).

Symir Torrence: C-

Yeah, here we go. It’s difficult to give the bench players high marks when they don’t often see the floor. When they do, Coach Boeheim yanks them after a mistake or a media timeout. All things considered, Torrence has been the most familiar face, and while he is an offensive minus, he does bring energy to the SU defense. The Marquette transfer wants to push the pace at all times, and attacks the basket with varied results. After five turnovers against Auburn, he’s cleaned up the giveaways, and his seven assist output against Brown should give the Syracuse staff a bit more confidence in him going forward.

Benny Williams: D

Williams definitely takes the title of biggest disappointment. There are freshman all around the country who weren’t even ranked in the top-100 making bigger impacts on basketball games. Every once in a while the potential flashes (a ridiculous block here, a midrange jumper there), but Williams just hasn’t put the pieces together yet. He has more mistakes (fouls + TOs) than points, and doesn’t really know what to do on either side of the ball. Mainly, there’s just no confidence. Even if Williams is lost, he needs to fake it until he makes it, and show some energy on the floor.

Frank Anselem: C

Anselem dunked the ball against Georgetown! Besides that, there’s been nothing memorable about the Nigerian’s start to 2021-2022. He stands on the court, gets lost at times, and tries his best to rebound. Not much else to say.

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