As we countdown to tipoff in November, we’re going to be tackling the biggest burning questions on the 2019-20 Syracuse basketball team. Today’s burning question: Who will start this year?
This question has become even more relevant this year with Syracuse losing four of its five starters in the offseason. Guards Frank Howard and Tyus Battle, forward Oshae Brissett and center Paschal Chukwu have all moved on from the Orange, and the only returning starter is guard/forward Elijah Hughes.
STARTING POINT GUARD: JALEN CAREY
With Howard out of the picture, the starting point guard role figures to fall to sophomore Jalen Carey. In his freshman year, Carey flashed his potential, going off for 26 points and seven rebounds in a loss to Connecticut at Madison Square Garden.
But Carey largely found himself out of the rotation by season’s end, because of his ball security issues (0.6 AST/TO ratio) and his shooting (17.4 3PT). Carey started during Syracuse’s exhibition tour through Italy, and was able to get inside at-will (albeit against lesser competition), and showed an improved shooting touch.
STARTING SHOOTING GUARD: BUDDY BOEHEIM
When Howard missed the first four games of the season with an ankle injury, Syracuse head coach Jim Boeheim promoted his son Buddy to the starting lineup. Though the younger Boeheim struggled in the early portion of the season, Boeheim became one of the best shooters in the ACC, finishing the season averaging 6.8 ppg on 35.3 shooting from downtown.
That carried over into the Italy exhibition, where he averaged 12.0 points per game on the trip. He was particularly sharp in a game against Oxygen Bassano, hitting four consecutive 3-pointers en route to 22 points in a 103-54 victory.
STARTING SMALL FORWARD: ELIJAH HUGHES
Well, this is the easiest call to make considering Hughes is the only returning starter from last year’s team. Hughes also figures to be the team’s leading scorer, since he averaged 13.7 ppg last year, second only to the departed Battle.
One thing to watch for Hughes this season is not just his scoring, but how he scores. Last year, Hughes established himself as an above-average 3-point shooter (36.9 3PT), but also sloppy on his drives (1.9 TPG). In the Italy tour, Hughes made a more concerted effort to score inside, and averaged a team-high 14.5 ppg.
STARTING POWER FORWARD: QUINCY GUERRIER
This is the position that will have the most intrigue heading into the season.
On the one hand, Syracuse can turn to junior Marek Dolezaj, who has been a key piece of the Orange’s success over the past two seasons. Though the numbers aren’t gaudy (4.1 ppg, 3.5 rpg), Dolezaj has proven to be SU’s ‘glue guy’ and has also shown his versatility, having spent extensive time at center.
But it’s that very versatility that likely makes Dolezaj more suited toward the bench. With his ability to play and guard multiple positions, Dolezaj makes an ideal sixth man, especially because he’s been used to that role throughout his college career.
That would pave the way for freshman Quincy Guerrier to start. With Dolezaj out with a hand injury in Italy, Guerrier started, and averaged 11.8 points and 9.3 rebounds per game. He showed his ability to be a three-level scorer and a ferocious rebounder, something that the Orange will need after losing Brissett, their leading rebounder from 2018.
STARTING CENTER: BOURAMA SIDIBE
After a lackluster first two years at Syracuse (2.7 ppg, 3.2 rpg), Bourama Sidibe is finally healthy, and it showed during the summer.
He showed why he was a four-star recruit out of high school, averaging 8.5 points and 12.0 rebounds during the four game swing, showing a polished touch around the basket. Of course, none of the Italian teams had anyone that could body Sidibe inside, and he will face significantly stiffer competition when ACC play starts.
But Sidibe showed none of the issues with a knee injury that slowed him his first two years, moving fluidly and at a pace that he hasn’t shown so far. If he’s healthy, Sidibe will be a key part of the Orange’s upcoming season.