Syracuse Basketball: Joe Girard III, Quincy Guerrier poised for success

Should Syracuse basketball contend for an NCAA Tournament berth this coming season, sophomores Joe Girard III and Quincy Guerrier must play critical roles.

Sophomores Joe Girard III and Quincy Guerrier are each going to have a stellar 2020-21 term for Syracuse basketball, assuming the upcoming season is played amid the novel coronavirus pandemic.

Okay, I know, that’s a pretty bold statement. But I’m of the mindset that you either go big with your prognostications, or you don’t prognosticate at all.

What got me thinking in this regard is a recent CBS Sports piece in which several of the media outlet’s experts discussed whom they believe will emerge as a break-out star in 2020-21.

Girard, a talented point guard, and Guerrier, a physically gifted forward, didn’t make the cut in the CBS Sports article. Unsurprisingly, no one from the Orange did, although featured in the piece is one-time Syracuse basketball target and current Oregon player Chris Duarte, as well as Casey Morsell, who suits up for fellow Atlantic Coast Conference foe Virginia.

Even though the ‘Cuse put forth a relatively pedestrian 18-14 record in the 2019-20 campaign, Syracuse basketball did end on a positive note, crushing North Carolina in the Atlantic Coast Conference Tournament before the pandemic halted the sports landscape in mid-March.

Furthermore, both Girard and Guerrier performed admirably as true freshmen last year, and they should each grow in their development as sophomores.

Expectations for Girard, who averaged a ridiculous amount of points a game in high school, probably proved a tad unrealistic among ‘Cuse fanatics. He got thrust into the starting line-up early on in the season, and for the most part, he certainly did shine, finishing with averages of 12.4 points, 3.0 rebounds and 3.5 assists per contest.

Without question, Girard has to improve upon his 2019-20 shooting percentages of 34.8 from the field and 32.4 from beyond the arc heading into 2020-21. Nearly 90 percent from the charity stripe will do just fine.

Girard and junior shooting guard Buddy Boeheim should comprise one of the best backcourts in the Atlantic Coast Conference, and 2020 four-star combo guard Kadary Richmond will provide an excellent third option at the guard position.

Guerrier, meanwhile, is potentially going to join the starting rotation in 2020-21, replacing former Orange sensation Elijah Hughes, who led the ACC in scoring last season and is off to the professional ranks. reported in early June that Guerrier had recently undergone surgery “to repair a torn muscle in his groin,” and hopefully he’s at full health now.

Playing behind Hughes and senior big man Marek Dolezaj in 2019-20, Guerrier accumulated about 20 minutes per encounter, averaging a solid 6.9 points and 5.3 boards, while connecting on 49.7 percent from the field as a whole.

Guerrier absolutely needs to up his shooting percentages from the free-throw line and 3-point range, but his physique is terrific, and he has a knack for grabbing rebounds and putting himself into spots for second-chance points.

A lot of ‘Cuse fans lamented about the 2-3 zone in 2019-20, and that’s a fair assessment. The Syracuse basketball defense proved sub-par. Yet guys like Guerrier and Girard have a stanza under their belt and should fare better in the trademark zone.

This duo of sophomores is primed for a fabulous 2020-21, and exquisite production from both of them will go a long way toward the Orange hearing its name called on Selection Sunday. Of course, that’s only if March Madness transpires next spring.