We’re only three weeks from the start of the exhibition season for Syracuse basketball, and given the time of year, there’s no better person to speak with than Syracuse.com’s | The Post Standard’s Mike Waters.
While Syracuse on the cusp of the top 25 in several publications, they’re not on the national radar—yet.
“(The coaching staff) low key likes the group they’ve put together,” Waters said. “Jim (Boeheim) seems to like the experience of this team.”
That starts with one of the most experienced backcourts in the ACC, with junior Joe Girard III and senior Buddy Boeheim returning in the backcourt, and junior Jesse Edwards and grad student Bourama Sidibe at center.
But it isn’t just the returning players that have experience. Syracuse welcomes three transfers this season, Symir Torrence, Cole Swider and Jimmy Boeheim, who bring a combined eight seasons of college experience to the team.
Swider may be of particular importance on the offensive end, especially as it relates to Buddy Boeheim. When SU was eliminated by Houston in the Sweet 16 of the NCAA Tournament, the Cougars sagged off screeners to give extra attention to Boeheim, and he finished shooting just 1-9 from 3-point land with 12 points in the loss.
That won’t be the case with Swider, who has established himself as a player capable of hitting at a 40 percent clip from beyond the arc.
“Cole is going to make that other team pay,” Waters said, “whereas Marek (Dolezaj) didn’t take 3s, and Quincy was a 23 percent 3-point shooter in ACC play.”
At the other wing spot, freshman forward Benny Williams, brings plenty of excitement. Rated 31st in his class by 247 Sports, he’s the highest recruit to arrive on The Hill since Tyus Battle (34th) in 2016.
“I’m not entirely sure yet if he’s contributing huge minutes right away, which is fine because you’ve got veteran forwards around,” Waters said. “But the athleticism just jumps off the charts. (Syracuse assistant coach) Red Autry is really pleased with where Benny is right now.”
The one X-factor to this team, Waters says, is going to be Edwards. He displayed plenty of growth in his sophomore season, giving the Orange a legitimate shot blocking presence in the back line of the defense toward the end of the year.
That’s something that neither Sidibe nor Dolezaj displayed.
“I think the bulk of the minutes are going to have to go to Jesse Edwards,” Waters says. “I love his length and his agility. Even last year in limited time, you saw the difference inside the zone.”
While Syracuse faces a brutal start to its season, with seven straight games against high-majors in its non-conference schedule, so long as the Orange can win a few of those games, Waters is confident that SU will be an NCAA Tournament team, with room to spare.
“I think Syracuse can go 12-8 against that ACC schedule they have,” Waters said. “If you go 12-8 in the ACC and you haven’t damaged yourself in the non-conference schedule, you’re in the NCAA Tournament without being on the bubble for the first time in a while.”