It’s no secret that Jim Boeheim likes to run a tight ship. The head coach rarely goes deep into his bench, usually running a seven or eight man rotation. This season he is taking that same mentality to a new extreme.
Syracuse is just eight games into its season and Boeheim is already overworking his players. Look no further than the most recent box score for some supporting evidence. Against Florida State, all five starters played 30 or more minutes. Jesse Edwards played the fewest because he fouled out. Symir Torrence led bench players with just 12 minutes, then Frank Anselem tallied eight and Benny Williams only saw two minutes.
This has been a trend all season long. No reserve is playing more than 16 minutes per game, and those averages are dropping each and every contest.
If you want some more stats, here you go. Buddy Boeheim ranks 13th in the entire country in minutes percentage at 93%. Only 12 other players in Division I men’s basketball have played more than him! He’s only gotten a breather for 7% of all the minutes through the first eight games. Not to mention, Buddy isn’t out there just fooling around. He is getting hounded when he’s on offense and playing a big role on defense.
The other starters aren’t too far behind Buddy. Jimmy Boeheim is at 82.4%, Joe Girard is at 80% and Cole Swider is at 79.7%. All of those are within the top 300 of DI players, of which there are around 4,500.
It doesn’t take a genius or a mathematician to understand these numbers and realize they are way too high, especially for this early in the season. Coach Boeheim, on the other hand, doesn’t seem to agree.
“To win the game, if Buddy has to play 50 minutes, he’s going to play 50 minutes,” Boeheim said after the win over Indiana. “People want to play these guys, no. We can’t win the game if we play these guys. The only way we can win the game is to play the guys that are playing well.”
While Boeheim is correct in the short term, he may be costing his team in the long term. If the current trends continue, the starters are going to be completely gassed once Syracuse hits ACC play and the more important games of the season. Very few players can consistently play 35+ minutes for 30+ games. The Orange are going to be slow, tired, and injury-prone by tournament time.
So, yes, in order to win games right now Buddy, Joe and the others need to be playing more. However, that is going to have to change soon. The bench needs to start giving the starters some breathers if Syracuse wants to be playing in late March.