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Do Syracuse’s Early Season Struggles Prove Jim Boeheim Doesn’t Fit with the Roster?

Kayla Breen/The NewsHouse

Six freshmen, one transfer. A class that Jim Boeheim, in his 47th year at the helm, having recruited players like Billy Owens, Carmelo Anthony, Johnny Flynn and Michael Carter-Williams, called his best ever. Well, after three games, the ‘Cuse head man is retreading on those words.

“Right now, Colgate is a better team than we are.”

“One of the things with young players is they’re playing defense and I don’t even think they realized where [Tucker Richardson] was.”

“[Chris Bell] is standing outside waiting to shoot. He’s gotta rebound, he’s gotta play defense, and he’s not doing that.”

We just haven’t been good at [man-to-man] in practice or been good at it in games. We have to simplify things – it’s a lot more complex for young players to learn two defenses, let alone one. Richmond runs 10 different types of Princeton offensive sets and we have one day to show these young guys that…The zone is the best answer – it’ll get better if we work on it more.

“[Judah’s] been good. He’s been really good. I like it when one of my predictions comes true. He’s very solid, smart, taking what’s there. He’s just scratching the surface… He’s a freshman. He’s played three games. Let’s wait a while. We got a lot of work to do.”

All of these are direct quotes from Jim Boeheim’s postgame press conferences, in which he continues to use buzzphrases like “not ready yet” and “work to do.” The same Boeheim who in preseason press conferences said this team would return to the NCAA tournament. Either these players have severely dropped off from what they showed the coaches during summer practices, or Boeheim got ahead of himself. From his postgame sound, it seems like this team’s growing pains could outweigh the potential.

Judah Mintz is on his way to becoming an all-ACC freshman teamer because of the freedom he’s given in Boeheim’s system and his ballhandling skills. However, what about the others? Right now, Justin Taylor and Chris Bunch, the two players projected to share time at the small forward spot, have played the fewest minutes of anyone in the true rotation. Taylor was praised for his college-ready skillset, and Bunch, his streaky shooting ability which can change games. Maliq Brown has proven to be a reliable rebounder. When does he start? How does Boeheim harness the unique skillset of Quadir Copeland?

These questions don’t have to be answered right away, but the vast difference between Boeheim’s attitude at ACC Media Day and now prove that things behind the scenes aren’t hunky-dory.

If Syracuse wants to be considered anything close to a blue-blood, which right now it isn’t, a key part of that label in today’s world of college basketball is producing and polishing talent. The Orange have developed players like Marek Dolezaj and Buddy Boeheim to be good college players. But elite programs create impact players. NBA players. A lot of them only stay for one year. Syracuse hasn’t had a five-star recruit in a long time. And maybe this year’s start shows us why.

Where is the disconnect? Did Boeheim just severely overrate his work on the recruiting trail? Have the players he’s handpick been overvalued by recruiting services, and therefore come in with unfair expectations? Or is there something missing inside the SU program?

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The Fizz is owned, edited and operated by Damon Amendolara. D.A. is an ’01 Syracuse graduate from the Newhouse School with a degree in Broadcast Journalism.

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