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Syracuse basketball needs more out of center position, but defense the problem against Georgetown

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Syracuse needs more from its center spot according to Jim Boeheim. But Syracuse also needs to play better defense as a whole.

Syracuse v Georgetown Photo by Mitchell Layton/Getty Images

After the Syracuse Orange men’s basketball team lost to Georgetown on Saturday, head coach Jim Boeheim made it known that he thinks his team needs to get more production out of the center position.

The center spot isn’t the only problem that this 5-5 team is facing, or even the most pressing for that matter. Boeheim also said his team just couldn’t get the stops it needed down the stretch against Georgetown.

On Saturday, the defense as a whole was the biggest problem as the Orange gave up 89 points to the Hoyas, the most in a regulation game since 2010 for a Syracuse opponent.

Still, the center spot is imperative to Syracuse’s success and the team will need to get more production from the middle on both ends of the floor.

“We’ve got to get more out of Bourama [Sidibe] inside, really on both ends,” Boeheim said following the Georgetown game. “They’re leaving him and he’s got to be able to take advantage of that. In time.”

While the center position isn’t just limited to Sidibe, Syracuse needs he and the other bigs to take a step forward. Against Georgetown, Syracuse got 2 points, 5 rebounds and 7 fouls out of the center position.

“You don’t isolate it that way but our center scored two points and their center scored 19, Boeheim continued. “So, you know, we gotta get something out of that position.”

On the defensive side of the ball, Syracuse needs to do a better job of limiting dribble penetration and allowing opponents to get into the gaps of the zone. That onus is on the perimeter players.

“I think we just got to play defense together. It’s not only one guy,” Sidibe said.

Georgetown was able to get the ball into the teeth of the zone by driving the gaps and getting the ball into the high-post area. Once the ball is entered into the high-post, the center has to come up and defend so long as the high-post player is capable of making a 15-footer.

NCAA Basketball: Syracuse at Georgetown Brad Mills-USA TODAY Sports

On the other side of the ball, Sidibe said he just needs to be more aggressive. When Syracuse’s perimeter players drive past their defender in man, secondary defenders help, which leaves Sidibe open.

When Sidibe comes to the perimeter to set ball screens, the defense is hard-hedging and doubling the ball-handler. This leaves Sidibe open on the roll.

“I feel like I just have to be more aggressive in finding open spots,” Sidibe said. “Most of the time I’m the open guy. I’m not realizing it. So I gotta find a way to be aggressive.”

Take this sequence for example. With just over five minutes remaining in the second half against Georgetown, Buddy Boeheim is in space waiting for a Sidibe screen.

Sidibe comes to set the screen, but Yurtseven hedges it. This prevents an open look at a three for Boeheim and also prevents an open driving lane.

When Yurtseven hedges the screen, Boeheim essentially faces a double-team. In this instance, Sidibe stops to look for the ball in the high-post but he should dive to the rim. Notice Marek Dolezaj moving to the high-post.

Instead, what Syracuse is left with is Boeheim picking up his dribble and a lack of spacing as both Sidibe and Dolezaj are in the same spot on the floor.

This allows Yurtseven to recover back on Sidibe. If he rolled to the rim, Boeheim could’ve hit Dolezaj in the high-post for an open look, or a quick Dolezaj dump down to Sidibe if the help commits to Dolezaj.

If the weak-side defender rotates off of Elijah Hughes, he’s open for a corner three.

Syracuse was forced to reset on this possession, but Boeheim did end up hitting a three out of it. In fairness, Syracuse did not use Sidibe in a ton of ball screen scenarios against Georgetown. This is just one example of how he can be more effective on the offensive end.

Dolezaj is more adept on the offensive end and he’s able to make plays when he gets the ball. But with a slender frame, it’s hard to put Dolezaj at the center spot and ask him to defend from the middle of the zone for long stretches of time.

Syracuse could also turn to freshman big man Jesse Edwards in the middle, who has played more minutes in the last two games. Edwards certainly doesn’t lack for confidence.

“I feel pretty confident overall. I feel like I’ve made progress and I’m going to keep making progress. To be honest I feel like I’m just starting the process,” Edwards said of his game on Saturday.

Edwards played 11 minutes against Georgetown, but only recorded 3 fouls in that time. He scored 7 points and grabbed 3 rebounds in Syracuse’s win at Georgia Tech.

When he checks into the game he tries to pick up the slack and bring energy.

“I’m trying to bring energy right now. Get a great dunk, play good defense,” Edwards said. “When we’re having a little bit of trouble on defense I try to do my best and do my part right.”

NCAA Basketball: Syracuse at Georgetown Brad Mills-USA TODAY Sports

Either way, Syracuse needs more production out of the center spot to be successful. In all five of Syracuse’s losses, the opposing big-man has either had, or flirted with a double-double. Virginia’s Jay Huff had 11 points and 12 rebonds in the season-opener. Oklahoma State’s Yor Anei had 19 points 8 rebounds against the Orange. Penn State’s Mike Watkins scored 16 points and grabbed 15 rebounds.

Iowa’s Luka Garza had 23 points and 9 rebounds in the Carrier Dome and Georgetown’s Omer Yurtseven had 19 points and 9 rebounds on Saturday. While the opposing power five bigs have been dominant, the responsibility isn’t solely on the center.

Net net, there’s a lot of moving parts to the zone. Syracuse just has to get better in a many areas.

Boeheim had a shift in tone after the Georgetown game. After an 0-2 showing in New York City, Boeheim said there wasn’t a lot to pin hopes on. After Georgetown, Boeheim suggested Syracuse is going to be all right.

“I think we’re going to get better. I think we’re going to be all right. But right now we just gotta get back, practice, work on some things and continue to get better,” Boeheim finished.

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