Following a third straight victory in The Basketball Tournament, Boeheim’s Army is off to the quarterfinals in Dayton, Ohio on Saturday. There, they’ll face Golden Eagles, the Marquette alumni team and 2020 champions of the event. But before that, we wanted to talk a bit more about the (mostly) Syracuse Orange alumni squad.
To do so, we figured we’d assemble some of the TNIAAM staff to discuss the the wins so far, what’s working, what isn’t, and whether or not this team can go the distance.
Is this the best Boeheim’s Army team we’ve seen?
Kevin: Yes. They have a bit more experience and are better suited to match up with their opponents than in previous years.
James: Yes. This is the most talented roster Boeheim’s Army has put together. The additions of DJ Kennedy and DeAndre Kane, two pros with continued success abroad, give immediate credentials to the team in TBT. Keifer Sykes and Tyrese Rice solidify the hole at point guard and adding former first round picks in Chris McCullough and Malachi Richardson give the roster two of its better Syracuse alums. CJ Fair is still CJ Fair and Eric Devendorf’s fiery edge allows him to compete at a high level. This is the best team beyond a shadow of a doubt.
John: Most complete, perhaps, yeah. There’s a ton of talent on this roster, and guys just seem to fill the right roles this time around. In the past, we had teams that had potential to run others out of the gym. But they also had fatal flaws like not enough shooting or speed, or too much size, etc. This year’s team just seems to check all the boxes to find success.
How important have the non-Syracuse additions been this year?
Kevin: They obviously know what it takes to win and I think their presence in the first game was crucial to rallying the team when it hadn’t played well.
James: Well, Boeheim’s Army probably doesn’t make it past the second round without them. So, pretty important. Also, who do you have playing point guard without Rice/Sykes?
John: They’ve been crucial toward elevating this group. That’s not to diminish the Orange alums, of course. But being less zone-focused and having experienced guys like DeAndre Kane and DJ Kennedy have been able to crash the boards well, while Tyrese Rice and Kiefer Sykes have both provided scoring punch.It’s been a nice shift.
Where’s the one place this squad needs to improve most to play for — and win — a championship?
Kevin: Turnovers. This team has some talented offensive players but as they move on they can’t afford to give away too many possessions and expect to win.
James: Taking care of the basketball. We’ve seen this team shore up the rebounding — in part thanks to playing man — and score in bunches. The defense has been sound since switching out of the zone in game one. But at times this team gets a little careless with the basketball. Such is life in TBT, probably.
John: Hate to be repetitive, but it’s turnovers — and maybe consistently good shot selection, just to be a little different. Boeheim’s Army has had stretches where they’re hitting a lot, and others where they’re stone cold.
It feels gr8 to be in the Elite 8!— Boeheim's Army (@BoeheimsArmy) July 29, 2021
See you in Dayton pic.twitter.com/pQjT6o9fJu
What’s your prediction for this team? Do they have enough to win it all?
Kevin: They have enough to win it all and I think if they can survive against Golden Eagle they can win. This looks to be the toughest opponent left in their way.
James: They have enough to win it all, but I’ll say this team makes it to the championship games and falls just short.
John: Going to be honest, I don’t think they can beat this Golden Eagles squad given how lights-out the Marquette team has been on offense (scored 94, 88 and 71 points so far). It’s going to take a Herculean defensive effort to slow them down, and it might just be too tough of an ask for a full game, unfortunately. If they can find a way to beat them, though, I like their odds.
Do you think this is the last BA team for a few years if they manage to take the title?
Kevin: No. I think this might be the only year we see this group but I believe there is enough interest and incentive for someone to organize a BA team especially one with a Boeheim playing next year. In addition to Jimmy you have players like Chukwu, Marek, Roberson, Triche, Gillon, and Ennis who could be options.
James: This is an interesting question because it could go so many ways. If they accomplish their goal and win the title, it’s natural to think they would take their foot off the gas and not put forth as much energy to repeat the effort. Maybe that happens to some degree. But if they win I think we’ll see some changes yet Boeheim’s Army should be back in some form.
John: I wouldn’t doubt it if they took a year or two off. There are plenty of new faces this year, but would bet the additions could have other options next year, and the core guys probably have less to compete for once they win it all. Also, it’s notable that Syracuse hasn’t been sending as many players to the NBA of late. The pro pipeline is a big part of what sets this team up for success. So having a lot of guys either a) make it long-term in the NBA or b) lack an ability to get drafted doesn’t set us up as well to fill out this roster on an annual basis. And no, I’m not making the case that NBA success is bad for us...
Boeheim’s Army takes on Golden Eagles from Dayton at 2 p.m. ET this Saturday. You can catch the game on ESPN, and we’ll be watching here as well.