As we wait to hear if the Syracuse Orange land transfer Quincy Ballard, or possibly another big man from the transfer portal we learned that the ACC’s leading rebounder Amando Bacot, Jr. will return to North Carolina next season. Sure Jesse Edwards is back next season but the Orange are losing about 23 rebounds a game from this year’s roster and that’s a lot of production that needs to be filled.
Edwards averaged 6.5 rebounds per game last year and if he stays out of foul trouble that number can certainly rise. One challenge is that playing center in the zone often means Jesse is defending the high post or corners which takes him out of rebounding position. Benny Williams and Jon Bol Ajak the only returning forwards and last year the duo combined for 2.6 rebounds per game. Williams’ rebounding numbers per 40 minutes only project to 5.4 per game so he’s got to work on more than his offense this summer.
For a Syracuse team which actually fared pretty well on the boards relative to their other defensive numbers, this means the incoming class members are going to have to step up. Justin Taylor, Chris Bunch and Maliq Brown will need to contribute right away and as we’ve detailed with Syracuse forwards it’s not always easy for new players to do so.
Taylor and Bunch come in with higher ratings but depending on how things shake out the next six months, it’s the physical Brown who could emerge as a valuable rotation player against physical front courts like North Carolina. We certainly don’t expect anyone to keep Bacot in check but Syracuse is going to need to help out Edwards if they want to keep him out of the foul trouble which often plagued him this past season.
Jim Boeheim thinks next year’s squad will defend better and score off of turnovers and transition. In order to get out and run they will need to rebound the ball and keep their opponents off the offensive glass. We talked about a similar theme last April but the reality is that this is going to require all five players on the court for Syracuse to commit to helping out and rebounding on the defensive end. The Orange should have the athletes to be able to run more but until the coaches grab another experienced player from the transfer portal there are questions about the ability of the forwards to compete in the ACC.