Orange Watch: Don’t count on lineup change for Syracuse basketball

Buddy Boeheim Duke
Feb. 1, 2020; Syracuse, NY, USA; Syracuse Orange guard Buddy Boeheim (35) drives against the Duke Blue Devils during a 97-88 loss. Mandatory Credit: Kicia Sears, The Juice Online.

Item: If there’s one mark of consistency over Jim Boeheim’s career, it’s his towering presence over the complete look and feel of the program he built into a national champion. Close friends and coaching colleagues can offer advice, or even friendly contrasting views, but the media and the legion of ‘Cuse fanatics, well, that’s another matter.

Jim Boeheim simply does not want to hear the talk.

He clarified as much following Sunday night’s strong second-half showing to track down and defeat a watered-down North Carolina State team missing two starters, keyed by clamping down defensively (no second half Wolfpack treys), hitting key baskets off improved offensive flow (five players in double figures), and even hanging on to win for the first time this season when outrebounded (37-to-35).

Don’t ask Boeheim about how he distributes total number of minutes played for starting guards Joe Girard and son Buddy, with top reserve Kadary Richmond.

Even if Orange fans are burning through Tweets complaining about Richmond deserving more PT than Girard, and further incited when ACC Network analyst and former Notre Dame standout Jordan Cornette (the school’s all-time blocked shots leader from 2001-05) was using his platform in the game broadcast to loudly proclaim the same wish – give Richmond more minutes – Boeheim is going to roll out a starting lineup and handle game substitutions his way.

“We need all three guys to play and be effective,” Boeheim insisted when the subject was presented following the win over the Wolfpack. “I’m really sick of people thinking ‘well this guy should play, that guy should play.’ We need all three to play.”

Take that response to mean that the starters will remain the same, and perhaps Richmond is inserted (excluding unusual circumstances or foul trouble) into a game a little earlier than a minute or so before the 12:00 media timeout in each half. But no major changes.

There was no doubt to anyone watching Sunday that other than an early blip against the Wolfpack press, a significant reason for the comeback victory had to do with Richmond’s efficiency with his time on the court, at both ends.

Even with his outside shot still a work in progress, at 6-5 he can take most defenders to the basket and choose to shoot or pass for points, and at worse draw foul shots. Defensively, that height and frame has caused havoc at the top of the zone.

“K’s a great defender, great instincts,” Buddy Boeheim said admirably about his agile teammate. “He’s so lengthy, he’s always getting in guys’ heads. (Opponents) don’t know if you have space in the high post because he can get there in a second. Great instincts, and he makes plays that don’t go on the stat sheet sometimes.”

» Related: Syracuse, down nine at half, rallies past NC State

Even with averaging just 14.8 minutes per game in nine ACC games, Richmond is getting on plenty of stat sheets. He leads the Orange and is fifth in the conference in steals (1.7 per game), is fifth in assists/turnover ratio (2.0 per game), and in a conference full of quality guards ranks 17th in assists (3.1 per game), trailing teammates Girard (7th) and Boeheim (13th) by tenths of a percentage point.

“He’s naturally a playmaker. He can get in the lane so easily and make a play,” Buddy Boeheim added in describing his slithery backcourt mate. “He’s a big piece for us, and we’re going to need him to keep stepping up going forward.”

Now as Syracuse (10-5, 4-4) gets set to face Louisville (11-4, 6-3 after beating Georgia Tech Monday 74-58 at home) Wednesday night in the Dome (7:00 p.m. ET / ACC Network), Orange fans wish that Buddy’s father would simply allow Richmond more minutes to ‘keep stepping up going forward.’

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About Brad Bierman 766 Articles
Now in his sixth decade of covering SU sports, Brad was sports director of WSYR radio for eight years into the early 1990s, then wrote the Orange Watch column for The Big Orange/The Juice print publication for 18 years. A Syracuse University graduate, Brad currently runs his own media consulting business in the Philadelphia suburbs. Follow him on Twitter @BradBierman.