Tipoff Countdown: Concern about the Syracuse centers?

During the season, The Juice Online will tackle a burning question about the Syracuse basketball team in “Tipoff Countdown.”

Today’s topic: Syracuse’s centers struggled in Monday’s win over Cincinnati and were called out by SU head coach Jim Boeheim. Are you concerned about their play?

Syracuse coach Jim Boeheim was not happy with his trio of centers after Syracuse’s 57-55 win over Cincinnati on Monday.

Coleman

Coleman has struggled recently

Rakeem Christmas, DaJuan Coleman and Baye Moussa Keita all struggled, and combined for 2 points and 5 rebounds.

Coleman played a quiet 7 minutes, and didn’t record a single statistic during that time. Christmas played 13 minutes and finished with 2 points, 2 rebounds and a block. Keita played the most of the bunch, and in 22 minutes had 3 rebounds and 2 blocks, but went scoreless.

» Related: Guard play critical for SU’s success

“Baye gives us the best chance on defense,” Boeheim said. “DaJuan probably are best offensive player, but the worst defensive center and Rakeem is kind of in the middle of those. When he plays, he’s probably our best center, but when he watches, he’s not very good.”

Last season, Fab Melo averaged 7.8 points and 5.8 rebounds in 25 minutes a game. Add that to Keita’s numbers from last year, (2.3 points and 2.5 rebounds) and it comes out to about 10 points and 9 rebounds a game.

Boeheim believes that the three will need to put up similar numbers for Syracuse to be successful.

“They’ve been averaging almost ten and ten, which we take,” Boeheim said. “If they can do that, we can win. Today was their first day where they struggled and they struggled on defense.”

It was the second straight game that Boeheim implored his centers to do more. The trio combined for 9 points and 12 rebounds in Saturday’s upset of then-No. 1 Louisville. By Boeheim’s standards, that was roughly what Syracuse needed for the win. But there is no denying that the SU centers have struggled in the Big East.

You’ll have to go back to SU’s 72-66 win over Providence on Jan. 9 for the last time one of the three had a truly breakout game. That night, Christmas played 31 minutes and finished with 15 points and 8 rebounds.

» Related: All SU does recently is win games

That has been by far the best performance from a SU center during Big East play.

Christmas has done the best of the group, and is averaging 4.8 points, 4.6 rebounds in 22 minutes in conference play. Keita is playing 14 minutes a game with 1.5 ppg and 2.3 rpg.

Coleman has had the biggest regression since Big East play started. He’s played limited minutes similar to what Christmas played last year, and Melo the year before that. In Big East play, he’s averaging only 2 points, 1 rebound in 8 minutes a game.

“Our big guys are going to get better,” Boeheim said. “I think we can get better. That’s what my absolute belief is and last year you never heard me say that. I don’t think I said that the whole year. If I did, it was a mistake.”

Boeheim is concerned about his big men. Are you? Voice your opinions below or Tweet us your opinions!

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Wes Cheng

About Wes Cheng

Wes has worked for Rivals.com covering the New York Knicks, as well as for Scout.com covering Syracuse athletics. Wes has also worked for the South China Morning Post (Hong Kong) and reported on the NBA and MLB for the New York Sportscene. A native of Long Island, New York, Wes graduated from Syracuse University in 2005. Follow him on Twitter @ChengWes.