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Hoops

After Hot Streak, SU Hoops’ Near Future Comes Into View

Credit Dennis Nett/Courtesy Syracuse.com

For all intents and purposes, Syracuse men’s basketball’s 2022 tournament hopes ended on the evening of January 25th. It may be hard to find a more embarrassing loss – at least in the ACC – than Syracuse’s 64-53 clinker against a truly dreadful Pitt program. It wasn’t the only unfortunate loss on SU’s record this year, but the Orange aren’t being mentioned in any credible publications when it comes to tournament bubble watch. 

Syracuse probably still has some work to do if it wants to make the NIT – it would be the program’s first second-tier tournament since 2017 and just its second since 2008 – but what the team has done lately shouldn’t be taken for granted. SU has taken care of business against the teams it was supposed to beat and done it handily.

Saturday’s 92-69 annihilation of Louisville marked the third straight blowout conference win for the Orange. Granted, dead-last NC State came before the Cardinals, but SU also clipped Wake Forest’s best team in over a decade with a 22-point smackdown on January 29th. The way this squad has won the games is just as important as the victories themselves against the ACC’s lower half.

Center Jesse Edwards has shone through dramatically in the last two games, with 19 points in each on a combined 17-20 shooting. Against the Cardinals yesterday, Edwards dunked the ball four times, led the team in rebounds, and also tallied three assists – a sign that defenses are beginning to worry about his ability in the post. With Edwards’ teammates free, SU has averaged nearly 92 points per game over its last three victories.

Edwards’ emergence from an uncomfortable bench-warmer in 2019 to a bonafide talent and important starter shouldn’t be discounted. Even if injured and former starting center Bourama Sidibe was healthy, he wouldn’t be taking the floor for opening tips. The development of Edwards is all the more important when taking a look at what Jim Boeheim has in the cupboard for next year’s team.

It’s not that the incumbent players on the 2022-23 team are bad – it’s just that there’s a lot we still don’t know. Buddy Boeheim doesn’t appear to have interest in returning next year, and Jimmy Boeheim won’t even be allowed unless his petition to the NCAA is awarded. Forward Cole Swider technically has two years of eligibility left thanks to COVID rules, but he wasn’t named in this clip by Jim Boeheim with regards to next year’s rotation.

Of the five players Boeheim names – Edwards, Joe Girard, Symir Torrence, Frank Anselem, and current true freshman Benny Williams – only two (Edwards and Girard) are starters. Torrence and Anselem are both incomplete bench players, and Williams has had a brutal freshman year marked by a lack of playing time and lack of success once he actually gets into games.

With five talented freshmen poised to arrive on campus next Fall, it’ll become paramount for new leaders to step up on SU’s team both in the stat sheet and locker room. Next year, Jesse Edwards will be a senior with a solid junior year under his belt. He’s proven over the past few games that he can put up numbers. Next year, he may be asked to assume an even larger role. With only so many games left and the tournament out of reach, it’s time to keep your eye on what Edwards and this team can do to build on for next year as the season comes to a close.

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