Where to begin. If Jim Boeheim sent the same guys out for a similar number of minutes game in and game out, this wouldn’t be as big of an issue. But Syracuse’s 3-4 record entering the month of December speaks to nobody seemingly knowing where he fits in Boeheim’s blueprint. It has changed from game to game, occasionally in drastic ways. That’s not a good thing.
Before going too far in, yes player availability is a factor. Jesse Edwards’ foul trouble from last season has not gone away. Mounir Hima’s lower-body injury, Judah Mintz’s ejection, and Benny Williams’ sickness both forced a change for the Bryant game.
But John Bol Ajak should not be playing 27 minutes in Williams’ stead. In the words of Stephen A. Smith, “no disrespect whatsoever, but the man cannot play the game of basketball”. Ajak does not have the athleticism or skillset to play with the big boys in meaningful minutes. For what it’s worth, Maliq Brown played a grand total of four minutes against the Bulldogs. What are we doing?
Now let’s rewind a few days to the St. John’s game in Brooklyn. Both Brown and Justin Taylor were kept on the bench for the entirety of that contest. The really confusing thing here is that Quadir Copeland saw 8 minutes against the Red Storm after not taking the floor against Richmond the previous day. And it’s worth noting that Taylor dropped 25 points against Bryant after not playing against St. John’s. If the Charlottesville native gets minutes, does that change the final outcome of the game? It’s not out of the realm of possibility.
Let’s end this little breakdown by saying this: the rotation inconsistency is not entirely Boeheim’s fault. When Joe Girard has a grand total of 9 points in three games and still refuses to closeout defensively, a change is necessary. When Chris Bell continues to show a lack of hustle on the boards, a change is necessary. When both Judah Mintz and Williams have the discipline of the kindergartener who lost his recess, a change is necessary. See the point? Each and every one of these players’ games is flawed to the point where they’re forcing Boeheim’s hand from game to game.
In terms of a solution, well there really isn’t an immediate one. Last night’s game is proof. Boeheim’s stubbornness toward playing freshmen hasn’t disappeared, and the guys that are getting the minutes simply aren’t playing well enough. Time is ticking on this team.