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Marek Dolezaj: The key to Syracuse winning at Ohio State

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Get the Slovakian stud some run at center. Please?

NCAA Basketball: NCAA Tournament-Second Round- Michigan State Spartans vs Syracuse Orange Rick Osentoski-USA TODAY Sports

The Syracuse Orange men’s basketball team faces the No. 16 Ohio State Buckeyes in its only true road matchup of its non-conference schedule.

Syracuse comes into the matchup at 3-2, and potentially without starting center Paschal Chukwu who injured his groin in last Wednesday’s game. Regardless of whether Chukwu can go against Ohio State, SU would benefit from giving Marek Dolezaj extended run at center. Here’s why it makes sense for the Orange on Wednesday night:

Opportunity Cost

Opportunity cost, according to Google’s dictionary engine, is “the loss of potential gain from other alternatives when one alternative is chosen.” It’s as simple as this: Syracuse needs to determine what the team is losing on defense when playing Dolezaj over Chukwu, and compare that to what the team is gaining on the offensive end.

I’m here to tell you that Syracuse isn’t losing much on the defensive end if opposing team’s big men are going to dominate the glass and score, anyway.

Won’t Stop Wesson

Ohio State’s Kaleb Wesson is a 6’10”, 270-pound force down low. He also has good footwork and shooting touch. UConn’s Eric Cobb, a similar physical presence to Wesson, scored 13 points and had seven offensive rebounds. Bol Bol (admittedly not comparing apples-to-apples here) scored 26 and corralled five offensive rebounds. Point is: When Syracuse faces a big, capable interior presence (Wesson is both), they’re going to give up points and offensive rebounds.

NCAA Basketball: Morehead State at Syracuse Rich Barnes-USA TODAY Sports

Dolezaj Helps the Offense

If you watch Syracuse basketball, I’m likely not telling you anything you don’t already know when I say that Marek Dolezaj is a more capable player on the offensive end of the floor. Marek has a nice shooting touch that can help spread the floor and gives Ohio State one more player to be accountable for.

Chukwu has been a non-factor on the offensive end and contributes no more than screens and the occasional put-back. Because teams know Chukwu isn’t a threat to score, teams can remain closer to the basket to protect on drives. Dolezaj can pull his defender further away from the basket by being ready to shoot in the corner or setting screens and “popping.” Moving defenders further from the basket will open driving lanes for Syracuse. The Orange, 350th out of 351 in 3-point shooting percentage, would benefit from attacking the basket more often.

Dolezaj is also quicker than Chukwu, which gives the Orange a bonus in transition—an area that Syracuse could really use an improvement. His ability to get up and down the floor increases Syracuse’s chances of having a numbers advantage in the transition offense. Numbers advantages lead to open shots.

Paschal Chukwu is not a bad player. Syracuse has simply been unable to defend physical big men so far this season and this matchup poses that threat. Marek Dolezaj would give Syracuse a much-needed boost on the offensive floor, but it still comes down to opportunity cost. In this case, playing Marek Dolezaj at center improves the Syracuse offense more than it negatively impacts the Orange on defense.