Jim Boeheim has said multiple times this year that Benny Williams is Syracuse’s best forward. Unfortunately, Williams wasn’t healthy yesterday, missing the loss to Virginia with a stomach bug. So in his place, instead of starting Justin Taylor, who put up 25 points against Bryant, or Maliq Brown, who by far is SU’s best rebounder not named Jesse Edwards, Boeheim put John Bol Ajak in the starting five.
Yes, a player who entered the transfer portal two years ago, didn’t get any interest, and then came back to Syracuse was put in the starting lineup. Who before this season was a running meme around the 315.
“John does a couple things for us, he’s got a couple things we run through him that we tried. I didn’t want to tell Maliq you’re coming home, you’re going to start. [Brown] played really well”Jim Boeheim post-Virginia
Well, in the first possession of the game, the ‘Cuse gave the ball to JBA, who promptly fumbled a handoff exchange with Joe Girard and committed a foul within the first 20 seconds.
After just four minutes, Ajak was subbed out, and didn’t come back in.
Maliq Brown played the rest of the contest, and was fantastic, with 10 points, eight rebounds and two steals. He played as well as a freshman without a jump shot could play against one of the best defensive teams in the country.
To paraphrase Boeheim, he didn’t want to throw Brown into the fire by giving him his first career start in a pressure situation. Instead, he started a guy who was a complete zero for four minutes. Boeheim hasn’t shown any trepidation about throwing Chris Bell into the fire, or Justin Taylor for that matter. And honestly, Brown’s played better than the other two. This was by far the most confusing decision Boeheim’s made this season.