What to watch for: Syracuse v. Lehigh

Mar 5, 2022; Syracuse, New York, USA; Syracuse Orange guard Joseph Girard III (11) makes a pass as Miami (Fl) Hurricanes guard Charlie Moore (3) defends in the first half at the Carrier Dome. Mandatory Credit: Mark Konezny-USA TODAY Sports

Syracuse opens its season against Lehigh on Monday evening at the JMA Wireless Dome. Here are five things to look out for in its opening game.

How will Syracuse defend the perimeter?

The Mountain Hawks return plenty of experience in the backcourt, starting with senior Evan Taylor. He led Lehigh in nearly every major statistical category last season, with the most points (13.0), rebounds (5.8), steals (26) and blocks (31), while shooting 41.2 percent from downtown. Fellow returning guards Reed Fenton and Jake Betlow each made 15-plus 3-pointers last year, as the team shot a combined 38.2 percent from beyond the arc last year. With two freshmen in the starting lineup for the Orange, keep a close eye on how the zone is shifting to account for Lehigh’s outside shooters.

Who will play backup center?

Syracuse head coach Jim Boeheim emptied his bench in the preseason, trying out Peter Carey, Mounir Hima, John Bol Ajak and even Maliq Brown at reserve center. Hima seems to have the inside track on the job, as he logged the most minutes (12) in that role. Now that the preseason is over, Boeheim will likely stick with a tight rotation unless the game becomes lopsided, and if Edwards needs to come out of the game, whoever Boeheim summons is likely the center he’s selected for the role.

» Related: An in-depth look at the 2022-23 Syracuse basketball roster

Who plays backup wing?

Boeheim started Chris Bell at wing opposite Benny Williams, and he had a solid night, with 7 points in 23 minutes. Boeheim then turned to Justin Taylor and Quadir Copeland in reserve roles, with each logging 16 minutes (Copeland also played guard). Again, with the rotation tightening, has Taylor done enough to keep his role in the rotation? Taylor did knock down 1 of 3 3-pointers against USNH, but Copeland seems to be a gadget player, as he had four assists, a steal and a rebound to go with 2 points. Based on past history, it’s unlikely Boeheim would go with two wings off the bench.

How deep does Boeheim go with his bench?

Speaking of which, I predict Boeheim only goes with 7.5 players in the minutes that matter. Aside from the starting lineup of Joe Girard, Judah Mintz, Williams, Bell and Edwards and the aforementioned Copeland and Hima, the only other player likely to see significant minutes is reserve point guard Symir Torrence. I used a .5 here because if Boeheim could play Edwards 40 minutes, he likely would. I think Copeland plays around 20, Torrence around 10, and Hima around 5.

Can Syracuse put together two good halves?

As we saw in exhibition, the Orange couldn’t string together a full game. Against Indiana (PA), the Orange struggled in the first half, and played well in the second. It was the reverse against Southern New Hampshire, with the Orange struggling in the second half. It’s to be expected of team that has several inexperienced players, but perhaps with the regular season underway and Boeheim treating his rotation as such, the Orange can play a wire-to-wire game without any significant lapses.

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About Rutger Sears 129 Articles
Rutger is a freelance writer and as a Syracuse native, has an affinity for all Syracuse University Athletics. From Donovan McNabb to Mike Powell, Rutger has seen greatness in many forms don an Orange uniform over the last 30 years. He covers all Syracuse athletics with a particular emphasis on football and recruiting.