Expectations for Syracuse basketball’s starters in 2020-21

Syracuse vs Niagara
Dec 28, 2019: Syracuse Orange forwards Marek Dolezaj and Bourama Sidibe watch a shot versus Niagara Purple Eagles at the Carrier Dome. Mandatory Photo Credit: Kicia Sears, The Juice Online.

With the recent addition of 2020 center Frank Anselem, Syracuse basketball’s roster appears to be set for the 2020-21 season.

While we wait on the waiver status of Illinois transfer Alan Griffin, Syracuse’s projected starting lineup looks similar to last season, with four of the five players returning. The only difference will be the departure of Elijah Hughes, who declared for the NBA draft, and the likely insertion of sixth man Quincy Guerrier into the top five.

Individually, here are some realistic expectations of how each starter should perform and what they could best bring to the team in the fall:

Joseph Girard III. At 12.4 points per game last season, Girard was one of four Syracuse players to average in double figures. With Hughes gone, Girard may be the prime candidate to take over that role. Some questioned his shot selection last season, as he shot just 32.4 percent from deep. Keep in mind, though: Gerry McNamara shot just 35 percent from beyond the arc in his freshman season (and in his career, for that matter). And McNamara raised his percentage from deep to 38 percent in his sophomore season.

If Syracuse has one shot to win a game late, while Buddy Boeheim may be the best pure shooter on the team, Girard would be the guy with the moxie to take (and make) that shot, just like the guy who he is most compared to, McNamara. Girard had five games of 20 or more points last season. That number could double Girard is poised to become the No. 1 option on offense next season.

Buddy Boeheim. Speaking of Boeheim, Buddy saw his minutes more than double last season, from 17.1 to 35.6 per game. His points jumped from 6.8 to 15.3 per game. No longer just the coach’s son, Boeheim planted his roots as a reliable scoring option for Syracuse.

As hot and cold as Girard might run, Boeheim is ol’ faithful, when it comes to scoring. Boeheim scored in double figures in 27 of 32 games last season. Expect more of the same from Buddy, which is not bad for the coach’s son…

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Quincy Guerrier. The favorite to start at small forward next season will be sophomore Quincy Guerrier. A lot of hype surrounded Guerrier in his freshman season and, largely, he did not live up to those expectations. He had a four-game stretch in February where he had two double-doubles and averaged 14 points and almost seven rebounds. The talent was there. But, the production lacked.

With averages of 6.9 points and 5.3 rebounds, Guerrier could see a big jump in productivity with more minutes this season. In both stature and skill sets, he draws comparisons to former Syracuse forward Paul Harris. Maybe a tad undersized with underwhelming outside shooting strokes, both are/were uber-athletic and rebounded far better than their height indicated they should.

Syracuse has had problems on the boards in recent seasons and that may continue next season. But, in terms of second-year jumps, Guerrier stands to gain the most next season. This is the guy we should see become the Most Improved Player on the roster.

Marek Dolezaj. Syracuse’s Swiss Army knife, Dolezaj can do a little bit of everything. Ranked fourth or better in all major stat categories except for 3-point shooting last season, Dolezaj was a great X-factor.

He will be a senior next season and the starting power forward. But, with the center position up in the air, Dolezaj may get plenty of opportunities to be a lean, mean center for the Orange. It seems like, no matter where you put him, Dolezaj will find a way to be successful.

Bourama Sidibe. Something clicked for Sidibe at the end of last season. He finished the campaign with six straight games of at least 10 rebounds, recording double-doubles in three of them. If Coach Boeheim could sign up for that right now for Sidibe next season, he would accept it before taking his next breath.

The center position always seems to be the weak spot on a Syracuse roster. But, if Sidibe could provide some stability in his senior season like he did at the end of the season, it could go a long way in making the Syracuse starting unit a solid one.

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Matt Dagostino
About Matt Dagostino 89 Articles
Matt currently works as an on-air talent and producer for Turner Sports in Atlanta, where he is from. Among his responsibilities are voicing over highlights for NCAA.com, NBA.com, WNBA.com, and PGA.com. He has also served as an associate producer for TNT’s coverage of the NBA Playoffs and TBS’s coverage of the MLB Postseason. Matt also has experience as a minor league baseball play-by-play announcer and as a PA announcer in D-I college athletics. Matt graduated from Syracuse University in 2005. Follow him on Twitter @MattDags28.