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The phrase head coach Jim Boeheim has repeated recently when he talks about new starting center Frank Anselem is a familiar one: “Frank isn’t ready.”
It’s the same saying Boeheim commonly used when talking about Jesse Edwards last season. Edwards was a raw talent who had the potential and the size to develop into a good player, Boeheim said then, but he was still growing and wasn’t good enough to play significant minutes.
Edwards showed that development when he filled the starting center role this season and is a frontrunner for the Atlantic Coast Conference’s Most Improved Player of the Year award. But his season-ending wrist fracture thrust Anselem into the starting lineup.
Boeheim’s been critical of Anselem in all but one game since the sophomore took over the starting job on Feb. 12. He said Anselem took a step backward after the Boston College game, and that Anselem provided “zero, zero, zero, zero” across the board against Georgia Tech in the first half. He reiterated that Anselem wasn’t ready against Notre Dame, and then once more after Syracuse’s blowout loss to Duke on Saturday.
The exception was Anselem’s 15-rebound performance against Virginia Tech, his first career start. Boeheim said Anselem did “a tremendous job” playing defense and rebounding the ball. “That’s what he has to do,” Boeheim said postgame.
But Anselem is struggling. He had three rebounds or less against Boston College and Duke. He got into foul trouble against Georgia Tech and Notre Dame. And against the No. 7 Blue Devils, the most recent sign that the center still has a lot of room to grow, he played just 12 minutes and grabbed as many boards (two) as he had fouls.
“Frank isn’t ready, Bourama’s trying with everything he can, he did as much as he can do,” Boeheim said after the Duke game. “We would’ve won this game, maybe, or Notre Dame, maybe, a couple of other games, maybe, with Jesse — but we’re just not deep enough or talented enough to lose him.”
In the loss to the Blue Devils, Boeheim said the game plan involved Anselem staying back and defending the paint. Instead, Boeheim said Anselem crept forward and allowed Duke to get dunks from behind. Boeheim said he didn’t know what Anselem was thinking, and maybe the pressure of a big game with a big crowd (almost 32,000) got to him.
Danny Kahn | Design Editor
Boeheim said he was disappointed with SU’s interior play — if Anselem played the way he did against Duke, the Orange would’ve lost the Virginia Tech game by 25, Boeheim said. The head coach said Anselem was struggling to make basic, defensive plays that Syracuse needed him to make early on. Instead, Duke built a 30-point lead in the first half.
Anselem said he’s played in enough games this year to understand what Syracuse is trying to accomplish. The problem for him has been slow starts, he said after the Notre Dame game. He isn’t used to filling a starting role, and it hasn’t been easy being suddenly thrown into one. But playing more minutes is the only true change, he said on Feb. 23. Anselem said he needed to be more locked in.
“We’ve gotta be better there (at center), but Bourama is at half-speed and Frank is not ready for this. That’s why he was playing five minutes a game,” Boeheim said after the Notre Dame loss. “We’re trying to make the best of what they can do.”
Later in Boeheim’s postgame press conference after Duke, he tacked on a dig at Anselem that epitomized how he felt about his center’s recent play. It came when answering a question about whether Boeheim would return for next season, something the 76-year-old head coach has answered countless times over the years.
“I don’t know what you need me to do or say,” Boeheim said after reiterating he had no intentions of retiring. “I guess, kind of like Frank, you don’t get it.”
The game was won when…
Duke jumped out to a 14-0 run to start the game, and stretched the lead to as many as 30 in the first half. KenPom gave the Blue Devils a 93.4% chance of victory after the first five minutes of the game, which only increased as the contest went on. Even when Syracuse posted an 11-0 run right before half, the Orange still had just a 3.1% chance of winning at halftime.
Screenshot courtesy of KenPom
Quote of the night: Coach K on Boeheim
“I just think it’s Jim’s palace,” Krzyzewski said of playing in the Carrier Dome. “I love his intro. Especially, if there’s over 30,000 people, that was pretty cool…. This is one of those iconic programs, Syracuse. I think ours is too, so when you bring both of them together in this setting, it’s spectacular for college basketball.”
Stat to know: 26 assists
The Blue Devils displayed good ball movement around the perimeter and inside the arc, finishing with 26 assists on 35 made field goals. Krzyzewski said he was pleased with his offense’s performance in the first 17 minutes of the first half. Duke had success finding the open 3-pointers — it started 7-of-8 from deep and finished 15-of-32. In the paint, the Blue Devils scored 40 points through Mark Williams and Paolo Banchero.
Game ball: Buddy Boeheim
Buddy Boeheim was the bright spot for Syracuse with 17 first-half points. He proved that he could consistently score against some of the best defenders in the country.
“If Buddy hadn’t made some really hard shots early, it would’ve been 30-2,” Boeheim said postgame. “Every shot he made was against a really good defensive player.”
Boeheim cited Wendell Moore, AJ Griffin and Banchero as defensive matchups that Buddy was faced with. “He’s been making some plays in the last two games that I didn’t think he’d ever be able to make, to be honest with you,” Boeheim added.
Danny Kahn | Design Editor
Three final points
Why John Bol Ajak and Benny Williams? Boeheim said Cole Swider and Jimmy Boeheim simply weren’t playing well. They’re offensive players who can score against everyone else, but Boeheim said maybe Duke was just too good defensively.
That prompted Boeheim to go with backups John Bol Ajak and Benny Williams, who both played a career-high in minutes (13 and 30, respectively).
“He hit a couple shots, he was more active,” Boeheim said of Williams. Boeheim reiterated later in the press conference that Benny is improving slightly, but there’s a lot of work to be done in the offseason to improve his rebounding and shooting.
An update on Sidibe’s health. Postgame, Sidibe said he doesn’t know where he needs to be in terms of his conditioning and health. But he’s trying his best to play 10, 15, or 20 minutes — whatever Boeheim asks of him. He said he asks Boeheim for a substitution if he gets tired, but there isn’t a specific minutes-restriction on him.
Sidibe had knee surgery after Syracuse’s season-opener in 2020-21, and then suffered another injury ahead of the 2021-22 season. He’s been playing limited minutes since, though his 26 against Duke were his most since March 2020.
Coach K thanks Syracuse for naming a scholarship after him. Before Krzyzewski’s final game in the Carrier Dome, Director of Athletics John Wildhack announced a military scholarship named after the Duke head coach. The Captain Michael Williams Krzyzewski Award for Leadership and Civic Engagement will be given out annually to an SU military student, Wildhack said.
Krzyzewski served as an officer in the U.S. Army, and was also a player and coach at Army West Point. After the game, he thanked Boeheim and SU for the award.
“The honor that they bestowed on me today was amazing, just absolutely amazing,” Krzyzewski said. “I got to take a little bit of time to really understand just how deep of an award that is.”
Next up: at North Carolina
Syracuse plays the Tar Heels on Monday in the two teams’ second-to-last game of the regular season. The Orange will get another shot at a Quadrant I victory, a category where SU currently sits at 0-8 this season. Sidibe said that UNC center Armando Bacot is going to try and do the same thing that Duke’s Mark Williams did. Buddy said it’ll take a whole team effort to stop Bacot, who he called the best big-man in the league.
The post The next day: Duke loss proves Frank Anselem is still learning appeared first on The Daily Orange.