As we look forward to next season’s Syracuse Orange men’s basketball squad, one of the topics you requested was a look at which player needed to take the biggest step forward. I wouldn’t narrow it down to one player as we said it’s going to take a group effort to replace Elijah Hughes’ production, but there are two players who could make a bigger impact in their second season.
Joseph Girard III had a very solid freshman year as he took over the point guard role in November and won over fans with his fiery competitiveness and propensity for hitting deep jumpers. Quincy Guerrier had more ups and downs in his adjustment to the college game, but he showed flashes of the athleticism that has drawn attention from NBA scouts. These two sophomores are going to be counted on to contribute more in the upcoming season and their success could determine the ceiling for the Syracuse squad.
Girard’s ability to make shots led to some questionable shot selection. In ACC play he only managed to shoot 34.5% from the field including a relatively poor 37.1% on two-point attempts.
As teams chase him off the three-point arc, he’ll need to take a page from his backcourt partner Buddy Boeheim. Buddy hit 50% on two-point attempts in ACC play last year as he used the foul-line jumper to expand his arsenal. Girard showed that he could get past his initial defender, but when he drove to the rim he wasn’t successful. This suggests that he’d be more effective taking the mid-range jumpers that teams are willing to concede. The analytics crowd might not like the shot, yet hitting 50% on those is better than hitting less than 40% at the rim.
Guerrier’s experience was the opposite, becoming effective around the rim in conference play, hitting on 57.5% of his two-point attempts — but he was a dreadful 9.1% from three (Coach Boeheim had some thoughts in that regard). He claimed that he can hit those shots, but only Jimmy Fallon looked more out of place shooting from deep last season.
Quincy will be out of action following surgery this summer, though when he gets back on the court he needs to be able to forego the deep shots and get to the rim. Guerrier has the ability to draw fouls and for a Syracuse team that was overwhelmed on the interior last season, that could be an important factor in 2020-21.
Both Girard and Guerrier are likely to see increases in their usage this coming season, which will lead to increases in stats like points, rebounds and assists. That’s all well and good but Syracuse really needs them to become more efficient on offense and more effective on defense. The Orange look to have enough depth to spread the ball around, but if the team wants to get back to the NCAA Tournament next spring, they will need their sophomore duo to become more reliable. Especially in ACC play.