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Syracuse men’s basketball: Are Jesse and Joe ready to lead the offense?

The two returning Orange starters have a tall task ahead of them

NCAA Basketball: Syracuse at Miami-Florida Jasen Vinlove-USA TODAY Sports

The Syracuse Orange starting lineup will look pretty different in the fall, with Cole Swider and Buddy and Jimmy Boeheim all departing the program. The two guys to stick around, Jesse Edwards and Joe Girard, will need to be on their A-game to lead SU back to relevance. But do they have what it takes to be the team’s leaders on the court?

We’ll start with Jesse. While Edwards played a huge role in the offense, his main issue was staying in the game. And I’m not talking about the fractured wrist that ended his season; Edwards has immense foul troubles. He fouled out 11 times (nearly HALF his games) and collected 90 total personals - an average of 3.75 per game - during his shortened season. Needless to say, that has to change for his 4th year.

Edwards 21-22 shot chart

On the positive side, the team looked much better when the offense was running through Jesse. His physical prowess draws attention and allows shooters to get to open space on the outside. And when Edwards took it to the basket himself, defenders had a hard time stopping his quick movement in the paint. Scoring is not and should not be his biggest concern, and as long as he doesn’t overdue initiating contact and instead focuses on trying to draw defenders to him, then I expect Jesse to have another good year. He should feel confident knowing he’s got the Center position locked up - we’ll see if Coach Boeheim addresses his lack of a backup.

Joe faces a different problem. With Buddy gone, he may be the main scoring option moving forward. (It’s far too soon to talk about any of the freshmen taking over, including Judah Mintz.) Girard plays best off the ball but may end up with the opposition’s best defender in his face this season.

Girard 21-22 shot chart

To succeed against increased pressure, Girard needs a careful shot selection and quick release. He got away with shooting some rushed looks last season, but that won’t fly with him transitioning back to the 2. It will be difficult matching the near 20-PPG Buddy put up last year, and I think Girard will be the only true threat from distance unless one of the incoming recruits breaks out quickly. He’s actually the rare case of shooting better from outside the arc than inside it: JGIII shot .403 from deep and .392 on total FG tries. The team is getting bigger from last year, so the defense should improve and create more fast break opportunities for him as well.

So what do you all think? Can these two right the ship and get the Orange back to playing meaningful basketball in 2023? Or will it be another disappointing season in Salt City? Let us know in the comments.