Key Departures: Quincy Guerrier (–>Oregon); Alan Griffin (Pro); Kadary Richmond (–>Seton Hall); Marek Dolezaj (Grad); Woody Newton (–>Ok St);
New In Town: Cole Swider (<–Nova); Jimmy Boeheim (<–Colgate); Symir Torrence (<–Marquette); Benny Williams (#31)
State of the Program:
It’s a family reunion at Syracuse as Jim Boeheim has brought in a 2nd son to play for the Orange as he continues to win games and go on tournament runs. They haven’t been an elite regular season team in 7 years, but they consistently squeak into the tournament and us that zone to go on March runs. They have been to 3 Sweet 16’s, 1 of which they went on the Final 4, all as double digit seeds in the last 6 years. Boeheim continues to befuddle teams outside of the ACC with his matchup zone as it is the ultimate weapon in the tournament. What he has really struggled with lately is turnover, and this season will be no exception. Cuse has lost 3 of the 4 leading scorers, 2 of which left early and many others transferred out down the rotation. The good news though is he gets his son and leading scorer Buddy Boeheim (SR) back, along with PG Joseph Girard (JR) but beyond them it will be transfers, freshmen and unproven bench players who will fill out the rotation. A couple of those bench players who have promise are big men Jesse Edwards (JR) and John Bol Ajak (SO) who are both very athletic and will share the burden of anchoring this defense. Overall expectations should be a bit tampered after all of this turnover, but you can never count Boeheim out, especially in March.
Boeheim has brought in several transfers, including another of his son’s in Jimmy Boeheim (SR) from Cornell. Jimmy is a much different player than his brother as he excels in the paint and isn’t near the shooter his brother is. He will play a stretch 4 role for Cuse and has a chance to start in that role after averaging nearly 17 ppg a year ago for Cornell. The guy he’ll battle for the starting 4 spot is another transfer Cole Swider (SR) from Villanova. Swider has been steadily improving as a stretch 4 and he has become a reliable shooter from outside after shooting 40% a year ago. He was stuck behind a very talented Nova frontcourt but he should come in and be a big contributor right away, and they’ll need him to be. I would expect him to get the start due to his athleticism and if he can pick up the zone quickly he will be a perfect fit. The last transfer coming in is CG Symir Torrence (JR) via Marquette. He was the 75th ranked prospect in his class and has ability to both score and be a playmaker at either guard spot. He never really got going with Marquette and struggled shooting, but the Orange will need him to step up and provide productive minutes off the bench in relief of Girard and Boeheim. 6’8” wing Benny Williams (#31) is the lone Freshman coming to Syracuse and he has a ton of promise as a wing in this system. He’s the perfect wing for Boeheim with length and athleticism for the zone defense and he also plays well in transition and has shooting ability out to the 3 point line. He needs to add strength and develop his playmaking to truly take advantage of his potential, and if he can he will surely be a 1st round pick down the road. He should start at the 3 this year and be essential for the success of this team.
Boeheim has a pretty short rotation to work with but the starting group of Girard, Buddy Boeheim, Williams, Swider and Edwards is very solid, especially given Buddy’s ability to fill it up offensively. Edwards and Bol Ajak are unproven inside but they are very athletic and should fit perfectly in the middle of this zone defense. The struggle will be on the offensive end, especially in the half-court as beyond Buddy they have no proven playmakers. Swider and Girard are effective shooters, and Jimmy Boeheim has been getting better and better but they are all unproven as guys you can lean on at this level. The offense will be on the shoulders of Buddy, which he’s proven he can handle, it just makes it difficult to believe they can elevate to a better position than they were a year ago. Benny Williams has a chance to be special but he seems like a year 2 pop guy to me, with this season having some growing pains. In the end, I expect the Orange to have some struggles but once again be in the bubble conversation and if they do make the tournament you can never count Boeheim out given his propensity for squeaking in and then going on runs. They are not a factor for a conference championship but look out if they can grind out a tournament bid.