The Syracuse Orange had the pieces to make more noise in 22-23…so what happened? The experienced Joe Girard leads the team in scoring at nearly 17 ppg . Judah Mintz has stepped up his game and isn’t too far behind him averaging 16 per game. The big man in the middle, Jesse Edwards, is having his best individual season, putting up 13.9 points with a solid 10 rebounds per game. He even leads the ACC in blocks, sending away three shots a contest. Overall, the team is averaging 74 PPG with these three at the forefront as their primary scoring options. It’s certainly not the offense from these three that’s the problem.
Perhaps it’s rebounding? From time to time, that’s been a problem for sure, but the Orange are ranked seventh in the ACC on the glass, grabbing down 35 boards a contest. The defense has also been up and down. Syracuse gives up a lot of 3s but has generally been good at creating turnovers.
The season really boils down to inconsistency. Syracuse has had trouble getting the offense and defense in sync for 40 minutes. They did not win against teams they should have beaten at home in Colgate and Bryant. On top of that, the Orange had their share of close games slipping away from them at the very end-St John’s, Pittsburgh, Miami, UNC and the second meeting with Virginia. All games that could have been wins and changed the trajectory of the season. It was in these games where the Orange had to tap into a different gear to gut out a win. These games are the ones that make or break a teams’ season.
Another clear problem Jim Boeheim’s squad had was not feeding Jesse Edwards enough, especially after the season he had last year, putting up 12 PPG on an almost perfect 70% shooting from the field. That accuracy from the field dropped this year to 58%, but he’s still been an effective weapon in the post. Although Boeheim is one of the best coaches not just in the NCAA, but basketball in general, he should have drawn up more plays this year to get Edwards more looks in the post.
As Jim Boeheim has looked to fix his rebounding and defense, he’s had to sacrifice the ability to provide spacing on offense. Maliq Brown is shooting a fascinating 70%, but he has not shot one three all season and since his attempts are around the rim, teams are playing off of him to focus on Edwards and Girard. Although it’s not a vital part of his game because he knows where to find quality shots elsewhere, his ability to make some jumpers will only give more spacing to Boeheim’s squad.
Above all else, the peak chemistry for the Orange started coming in a tad too late, but it’s understandable. Mintz, Brown, Chris Bell, Justin Taylor, and Quadir Copeland are freshmen. Mounir Hima was also in his first season with Syracuse this year. There was a lot of adjusting going on and that showed on the defensive end.
The decision on whether Mintz and Edwards stay next year will be crucial. If they do, a top 25 return looks promising. If not, then the staff will need to find ways to replace the top producers on a struggling team. Until then, the team should focus on enjoying what is left of the season and continue to improve. Every player on this squad has still yet to touch their true potential yet.