The Orange have tipped off to a wonky start. In fact, through seven games, Syracuse has dealt with many scenarios that usually take an entire season to materialize. That includes a pair of easy wins, an upset loss, a game against a ranked team and a nail-biting victory. When it relates to development, each player has felt the brunt of what it takes to establish themselves in the midst of a tough slate.
With this in mind, seven games have taught us at Fizz that newcomers and returners are already finding ways to make an impact and stepping into specific roles. So, in regards to importance, this is the list of SU’s top five players thus far.
5 – Cole Swider
Following the opening three games, Swider was higher on this list because when he was subpar, the Orange would win, but against Colgate, the loss was in large part due to his poor performance. However, the reason the Rhode Island native sits at number five is because his offensive arsenal isn’t as needed as his defensive prowess.
Swider’s ability to lock up opponents at the bottom of the zone, while also pressuring play makers on the wing, is where the Villanova transfer is most needed. His 6’9″ frame helps SU immensely down low after the departure of Quincy Guerrier. Plus, he’s shown that rebounding can be a strong suit of his, averaging a team-high six boards per game.
But it was Tuesday’s win over Indiana that showed his possible expendability. When Swider was called for his fourth personal foul, Benny Williams held his own on the defensive end and proved that Cole isn’t as needed as the other starters. Although his experience and poise is necessary for the Orange to have any success in an ACC full of uber talented power forwards, there are plenty of players that hold a more important post than he does.
Swider is the one player that will shift on the list the most though, because his length will be seen as more integral during conference play, and when his offensive game picks up, then he might get as high as number two on this list.
4 – Joe Girard
This is one of the much easier takes of the bunch.
Although Symir Torrence hasn’t looked great to kickoff the season, the Syracuse native showed against Indiana that he plays better defense at a sustainable rate. That gives Jim Boeheim leeway to sit Girard for a period of time, making him less important than the top three.
Now one thing everyone can agree on is how important JG3 is to the offense. He’s a proven ball handler whose range expands to limits beyond measure. But his time-to-time poor decision making drops the Glens Falls native on this list. The junior averages over three turnovers a game as direct proof.
The Bahamas exposed Girard’s many weaknesses, but a 22-point game against Indiana brought him back into the top four. JG3 is a player that could easily jump to number one depending on how to season unfolds, but it’s way too early and he is way too inconsistent to grab a spot in the top three. If Girard can string together a couple 20-point games, then a higher spot is waiting for him, but right now, it’s hard to delineate whether the third-year point guard is at his ceiling or floor.
3 – Jimmy Boeheim
Boeheim solidified his spot on this list after an unbelievable performance against Indiana, in which he scored 26 points on over 45% shooting from the field and distance. After an okay previous five games, the Cornell transfer realized his talent and where it shows up the most, taking full advantage of it.
The grad transfer’s ability to penetrate and be an actual weapon in the interior as a passer or scorer is scary for any opponent. He also moves great without the ball and finds open gaps to spot up from long range. Boeheim’s awareness and decision making is also admirable, as the coach’s son has turned the ball over just five times in the last four contests.
On an importance scale, Boeheim nabs this spot as a result to his play on both ends of the court, plus his communicative skill. He keeps the team in tact no matter the situation and instills energy on defense. Boeheim has shown that his length spans far beyond the short corner spot in the zone. He was able to shift to the wings with ease against the Hoosiers amidst question marks about his speed.
If SU wants sustained success, then Boeheim’s comradery with his brother, Buddy, plus his ability to run the court for over 35 minutes in a game speaks volumes moving forward.
2 – Jesse Edwards
The most surprising player for the Orange this season has climbed the mountain top and almost reached the pinnacle on the importance list. For a team that’s woes at the center position are as clear as day, Edwards is changing the narrative on both sides of the ball.
The junior’s 13 points and five rebounds a game represents his consistency in the early going. In the last three games alone, Edwards has scored at least 17 points and missed a total of three shots. His defense is also much improved. The Netherlands native averages close to three blocks per game and clogs up the paint with his 6’11” frame. Edwards is finally coming into his own and this most recent stretch is showing just that.
Why he sits so high in terms of importance rests on foul trouble. In in the Indiana game, Syracuse could’ve desperately used Edward’s size, length and heightened basketball IQ to put the Hoosiers away earlier. In the previous two games in which Edwards had fouled out, the Cuse lost to Colgate and VCU, so without his presence it’s clear that Orange lack an integral piece on offense and defense.
1 – Buddy Boeheim
This is an easy one. Let’s be honest, everyone knows that Syracuse basketball runs through Buddy Boeheim. But here are some stats to back it up.
To open the season, Boeheim has yet to tally under 17 points and when his efficiency on the offensive end lacks, the Orange suffer as a result. Plus, the senior plays stellar defense, or at least has to open up the year. Boeheim has 16 steals on the year and is in total control of his role at the top of the zone. It’s apparent that last year’s leading scorer has developed defensively because his activity went from just fine, to second to none.
The ending statement that makes Boeheim the most important player on this team: He is not expendable. There is no way to replace Buddy, and luckily for Syracuse, there is no need to.