It’ll be a ‘nail biter’ for Syracuse making the tournament, former SU guard says

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Syracuse forward Marek Dolezaj drives against Duke. Mandatory Photo Credit: Kicia Sears, The Juice Online.

With name games left on the schedule, Syracuse is scrambling to polish its resume for the NCAA Tournament.

We chatted with former Syracuse guard and The Juice Online Senior College Basketball Analyst Andrew Kouwe to get his take on how the season is going, and how it’ll finish on this week’s The Cuse on the Cuse Podcast, hosted by SNY.tv.

One thing that seems to be on the mind of Syracuse fans recently is the struggles of Buddy Boeheim and the emergence of guard Kadary Richmond. While Boeheim has shot around 28 percent from 3-point land, he is leading the team in minutes at over 36 per game.

Meanwhile, Richmond, who has proven to be a defensive dynamo and shown a knack to break down defenses, is just over 20 minutes per game.

Is there favoritism at play because Buddy Boeheim is Jim Boeheim’s son?

No, says Kouwe, emphatically.

“(Jim Boeheim is) the most competitive person I’ve ever been around. All he wants to do is win,” Kouwe said. It doesn’t matter if Buddy gets two minutes or 40 minutes. It’s whatever it going to get the team to win.”

One reason that Buddy Boeheim continues to log big minutes is his shooting ability. While he’s having a down season, opposing teams still respect his shot.

“If Boeheim has a bias toward anything, it’s toward offense. He likes guys who can score,” Kouwe said. “And yes, Buddy has had his struggles this year, but he can score and make shots. Opposing teams have to game plan against Buddy. ‘We have to make sure we get a body on Buddy so he doesn’t get an open shot.’ When you game plan like that, that’s going to leave room for (Joe) Girard and (Alan) Griffin to drive.”

» Related: Jim Boeheim will absolutely not change his starting lineup

As for SU’s tournament chances, Kouwe notes that the Orange don’t have that “sure fire” first round draft pick that Syracuse can turn to when it needs a basket. That’s hampered the Orange’s ability late in games to close out. As a result, it’s going to be a “nail biter” come season’s end.

The game that Kouwe has circled is the Feb. 22 game against Duke. While the Blue Devils are a typically a top 25 power, the Blue Devils are in the middle of the pack this season with a 5-4 record, including an embarrassing loss to Miami on Monday night to put them squarely on the tournament bubble.

“This could be a game that makes or breaks (getting into) the Tournament,” Kouwe said. “I think that game, it’s at Duke, that could be a big one in terms of where (Syracuse) ends up in the ACC. Are we one game ahead of them, or are they one game ahead of us?”

TJO Editor in Chief Brad Bierman then calls in and we chat about more about Syracuse’s close win over NC State, and I ask him the same question about if Buddy Boeheim should really be leading the team in minutes. His answer has a different angle.

We wrap up the show discussing NLI day for the football team, even though Syracuse has most of its class wrapped up. The football team will need it, as they just finished up a 1-10 campaign.

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About Wes Cheng 2614 Articles
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.