Syracuse Basketball: Jim Boeheim sorting out which rotations work best

Syracuse basketball (Photo by Bryan Bennett/Getty Images)
Syracuse basketball (Photo by Bryan Bennett/Getty Images) /

Syracuse basketball, this Saturday afternoon, will face Central New York neighbor Cornell. After that battle between long-time foes, the Orange (7-4) will have completed its non-conference schedule in the 2022-23 season and focus in earnest on its Atlantic Coast Conference slate.

As the ‘Cuse prepares for the meat of its ACC docket and the calendar year gets set to turn to 2023, head coach Jim Boeheim continues to shuffle his rotations to determine which line-ups are most effective.

The Orange roster features 12 scholarship players, including two sophomores, six freshmen, three seniors and one redshirt junior.

We’ll have to see how things shake out further down the line, but for the time being anyway, Boeheim is utilizing a sizable group of players in 2022-23.

In recent years, a frequent complaint among my fellow Syracuse basketball fans is that Boeheim only plays six or seven guys. But in looking at current statistics on the ESPN Web site, nine players are averaging at least 11 minutes per game, and eight guys are collecting at least 14 minutes of run per encounter.

The Syracuse basketball roster has some legitimate depth in the 2022-23 stanza.

The starting five, so far, has consisted of senior shooting guard Joe Girard III, freshman point guard Judah Mintz, sophomore forward Benny Williams, freshman forward Chris Bell, and senior center Jesse Edwards.

Could the starting rotation change? Got me. What I will say is that Bell and freshman shooting guard/small forward Justin Taylor are averaging nearly the same number of minutes per meeting (19.6 versus 17.4).

Mintz, Girard, Edwards and Williams all average a minimum of 27 minutes per game. When he’s shooting well, Girard is great, but when he’s off, I think that Syracuse basketball is better suited with Mintz and senior Symir Torrence at the guard spots (or even Taylor).

Williams has been up and down in 2022-23, but he’s scored 13 points in each of the two most recent home wins for the ‘Cuse, versus Georgetown and then Monmouth.

Bell is streaky but can shoot it from beyond the arc. The issue is that he’s a forward and only averaging 1.1 rebounds per contest. That isn’t good enough.

Freshman forward Maliq Brown came on strong versus Monmouth, posting 11 points and seven boards. He gives the Orange more physicality and rebounding in the interior than Bell, but Brown isn’t a perimeter threat.

When Brown is in the game, presumably for Bell, you can insert Taylor into the line-up for more shooting, but then who comes out? Girard? Mintz? Williams? I really like the tandem of Brown and Williams at the forward positions, but with that combination, as Boeheim recently said, Williams has to score for the ‘Cuse.

Redshirt junior forward John Bol Ajak has proven delightful to date in 2022-23. He plays with such energy and does all of the little things. He’s also shown a knack for passing really well in the paint.

When Edwards has gotten into foul trouble, sophomore center Mounir Hima has done some nice things, particularly in the zone defense, despite only averaging 8.7 minutes per affair.

It’s a “good” problem to have in that Boeheim seems to possess a variety of players to plug into his rotation. Naturally, as the competition intensifies during the ACC calendar, we’ll have to wait and see whether Boeheim trims down his primary rotation to six, seven or eight guys.

Personally, I’d be good with Bell coming out of the starting line-up, and I mean no disrespect to the young man. I’d be more than fine with Taylor, Brown or Ajak as one of the starting forwards.

Then again, as I often discuss with other Syracuse basketball fans on social media, it’s not which players start these games that are important. It’s which guys are in Boeheim’s line-up when contests are concluding that matters the most.

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