Football season is chalked. It’s time to get ready for Syracuse basketball’s season-opening matchup this Friday against Bryant at 3 PM. Before the first jump ball in the Dome, let’s refamiliarize ourselves with SU’s rotation and preview the Orange position-by-position.
Head coach Jim Boeheim is known for only playing one or two guys off of the bench, but there’s a sneaking suspicion around the Hill that non-starters might see a bit more run this year. Boeheim has praised multiple bench players in his preseason press conferences. Here’s a projection of SU’s depth chart:
Point Guard: Joe Girard III (around 32 mins a game), Kadary Richmond (~8)
Shooting Guard: Buddy Boeheim (~34), Richmond (~2, off-ball), Alan Griffin (~5, moves to the top of the zone)
Small Forward: Griffin (~30), Robert Braswell (~10), Woody Newton (~2, garbage time/Griffin and Braswell extreme foul trouble)
Power Forward: Marek Dolezaj (~20), Quincy Gurrier (~17)
Center: Bourama Sidibe (~25), Dolezaj (~10, Sidibe foul trouble), Frank Anselem (~10, Sidibe and Dolezaj extreme foul trouble)
Today we’re focusing on the first three names on that depth chart. Girard, Boeheim, and Kadary Richmond are going to be Syracuse’s linchpins. They have to score the ball effectively, set up scoring opportunities for SU’s wings and bigs, and contain shooters at the top of the 2-3 zone. The expectations for this group are high, especially after last year, when Girard showed flashes of big-time scoring ability and Boeheim added a mid-range game to his already deadly three-point shooting. Richmond, SU’s highest rated recruit in the class of 2020, has received nothing but praise from Boeheim in the early going. These three must all perform at a high level for the Orange to have a successful 2020 season.
Joe Girard III: The key for Girard to have a successful season is becoming a more efficient scorer. The 6-foot-1 sophomore can fill it up, no question about it. But his percentages last year leaned more towards “inexperienced chucker” than “reliable second option.” Girard only shot 35% from the field last year, and 32% from behind the arc. Some of those shots were contested prayers at the end of the shot clock, and others were a product of averaging 40 points a game in high school. If Girard can score in the flow of the offense, which hopefully can be geared towards player and ball movement instead of isolation, then those percentages should shoot up towards the 40s. Girard had close to a 2:1 assist to turnover ratio last year, and I expect to see him continue to improve his distribution. Defensively, he averaged over 1.5 steals per game in 2019, a solid number, but needs to collect more than 97 rebounds this season.
Buddy Boeheim: Boeheim has been working out during the offseason with former SU standout Eric Devendorf. In an interview with Matthew Gutierrez of The Athletic, Devo said “Most of that work is about getting quicker, working on his feet, his angles, his reaction time.” in reference to the head coach’s son improving his defense. The top of the zone was a liability at times, with guards like UNC’s Cole Anthony sinking three after above-the-break three with barely any pressure in his face. Offensively, Boeheim’s workouts have focused on “balance” and playing with pace. Without Elijah Hughes to handle the ball, Boeheim is going to spend more time with the rock in his hands when Girard isn’t on the floor. However, his primary role is still to catch-and-shoot, both off of screens and in transition.
Kadary Richmond: Richmond is the wild card, mainly because he hasn’t played a college game yet. His high school tape shows promise. His best attribute is getting to the basket, an area where neither Girard nor Boeheim excels, and his crossover has ankle-breaking potential.
High school and college are two different beasts, and not all freshmen can handle the big stage, but Jim Boeheim is ready to plug-and-play the New York City product as Syracuse’s next sixth man. Dion Waiters might be the name that instantly pops up, but Richmond to me is more like Jamal Crawford, a slithery player with a yo-yo handle. He also has bounce, length and high effort levels on defense. Richmond might hit some bumps in the early going, but he should be a valuable contributor come March.
Keep an eye out for previews of Syracuse’s wings and bigs later this week.