Before the season, Jim Boeheim said that if Benny Williams averaged around 10-12 points and 5-6 rebounds per game, it would change this team’s outlook. We’re now nine games in and the sophomore has changed this team’s outlook, but has it been for the better? Sure, his 4.7 rebounds per game are near 5, but he isn’t scoring consistently. Williams has topped double figures just twice this season (for what it’s worth, both of those instances were losses), and if he doesn’t boost his play soon, he’s going to lose minutes.
It’s clear and understandable why Williams is starting after his miserable freshman campaign. He’s got hops, in fact he might be the most athletic player on this team not named Judah Mintz. By that alone, he should be getting minutes, but there’s a lot more to it than that.
Williams’ fundamentals aren’t exactly awe-inspiring. Firstly, have you seen how he shoots the basketball? There’s no arc to it, it’s very similar to a line drive in baseball. When Williams is dealing with longer, more athletic defenders come ACC play, many of his shots are going to be swatted into the seats. His defensive rotations are also way too slow. Williams has had well over a year to learn Boeheim’s 2-3 zone, he should be showing signs of acclimation to it. But his positioning on the block is often out of sorts, leading to wide-open looks in the corner (the most efficient shot in basketball!). No wonder John Bol Ajak is starting to take Williams’ minutes. The former knows the zone.
Now let’s dive into the box scores, and when you do that you find one thing: inconsistency. Sure, he looked great against Colgate (even though it ended up being a moot point). But since then, there hasn’t been a lot of good. He was left off the score sheet against Bryant (though he was sick), was ejected late in Champaign, and was as good as a nonfactor in South Bend. So the last two games Syracuse has been competitive in (though he had a decent excuse for one of them) Williams wet the bed. How much longer is the coaching staff going to tolerate this charade?
When Williams first got to campus a year and a half ago, expectations were sky-high. It’s understandable that he might struggle as a freshman. But that level of play this year will get the Orange nowhere. If Williams does not get it together soon, he won’t be starting much longer. It’s put up or shut up time.