Syracuse has had a depth problem for years. For the longest time, Jim Boeheim has gone with a very short bench, and sometimes it’s worked, but other times it’s burned him. Look at the 2018 Round of 32 against Michigan State.
For almost the entire season, Frank Howard and Tyus Battle were playing 40 minutes a game. Howard fouled out late, so walk-on Braedon Bayer had to play the last six minutes of the game and even forced a crucial jump ball to earn Syracuse an upset win a trip to the Sweet 16.
But, there have been seasons where little depth has hurt Syracuse. Look at 2020 and 2022. With a young roster in 2020, Boeheim relied heavily on his starters, and SU was unlikely to make the NCAA Tournament before COVID came along.
Then, this past season, Syracuse’s only backup options were Symir Torrence (who missed games due to injury), Benny Williams (never ready according to Boeheim), Frank Anselem, and Bourama Sidibe (who had not played in two years due to lingering knee issues).
Sidibe and Anselem filled in admirably for Jesse Edwards after his injury while Torrence and Williams had their moments, but the starters fatiguing at the end of games was a key storyline to 2022 Syracuse basketball. That’s where adding depth for 2023 comes into play.
While Buddy Boeheim, Cole Swider, Jimmy Boeheim, Bourama Sidibe, and Frank Anselem may be gone, Syracuse still returns two starters, two other key rotation players who have now had a year in the system and bring in six freshmen to the program. That’s 10 players, a solid number who could contribute right away.
But, more depth is needed. SU’s only option behind Edwards at the center, who is coming off a significant wrist injury, is freshman peter Carey who has not played competitive basketball in multiple years because of COVID and a knee injury derailing his junior and senior high school seasons.
The Orange need a reliable backup big man now that Frank Anselem is taking his talents elsewhere. Enter Syracuse native and Florida State transfer Quincy Ballard. The former Seminole visited the SU campus last weekend and should be making a decision soon.
At 7’0 and 240 pounds, Syracuse needs a guy who can spell Edwards 10-15 minutes a game, and bang bodies on the inside. With younger players likely to be playing on the wing of the zone, SU needs an enforcer in the paint, and Ballard can fill that role.
Even though his number at FSU doesn’t jump off the page, he was stuck in a logjam of seven-footers down in Tallahassee and with a defined role at Syracuse could become super effective. Personally, he would thrive in a role like Baye Moussa Keita, who backed up Rakeem Christmas for multiple years during the last significant stretch of successful Syracuse regular season basketball.
If Jesse Edwards takes another leap in his senior season, and Boeheim locks down Ballard to don Orange and return to his home city, it could prove to be a formidable duo in the middle of the zone. The Orange need depth badly, and Ballard would be the perfect answer to that.