In defense of Syracuse coach Jim Boeheim's use of his bench
Based on that statement, some Syracuse fans think a different Hall of Fame coach acts like it is the playoffs far too often. At the same time, there are reasons for giving starters extended run in competitive games or even in non-competitive early season matchups, such as young starters needing to get experience, the group needing time to gel, and so on. Boeheim has generally employed a sixth man with regularity over the last 15 years with the player finishing sixth on the team in minutes playing at least 36. In seven of those seasons, the sixth man played at least 45 percent of all minutes. Seventh man has more variance, but in ten of those 15 seasons, those players played at least 32 percent of all potential minutes. While being the poster child for not getting enough playing time last season, Benny Williams received the highest percentage of playing time for an eighth man in the rotation in the last seven campaigns, playing 23. While many fans were dissatisfied with Williams’ playing time, recent history suggests a freshman playing as many minutes as he did leads to good things.
Kaleb Joseph and Howard Washington got the least run for an eighth man, getting under eight percent of all possible minutes in the 2015-16 and 2017-18 seasons, respectively. Those two teams both got into the NCAA Tournament with little room to spare and both carded the highest rates of minutes going to the top five players. The former team saw its top five players each spend at least 75 percent of the available time on the court. Other teams that had heavy reliance on the top five players on the roster included, in descending order: All were top-heavy in minutes and five of the six were fringe NCAA Tournament teams. On the opposite end of the spectrum, the 2011-2012 team that went 34-3 and was eliminated in the Elite Eight saw only 65. Only one other team saw the top five players on the floor for under 80 percent of potential minutes.
It definitely seems like quality depth is what pushes a Syracuse team to an upper level. Of course, with the transfer portal now looming overhead, it is more difficult than ever to keep quality depth. Kadary Richmond received the third-highest share of playing time for any player to finish sixth on the team, earning 52. You have to go back to the 2013-14 season to find a campaign where the players who ranked sixth, seventh, and eighth in minutes on the roster all returned the following year with only one player (Chris McCullough) opting for the draft. In other words, it is likely to keep being harder than ever for Jim Boeheim to build up quality depth and spread minutes around. For more Syracuse coverage, like us on Facebook, follow us on Twitter and Instagram, and listen to our podcast.
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