By Mychal Hunter
This is probably going to be an unpopular one. The history. The pedigree. The all-time great on the bench. But, I just don’t see it. Last week I talked about the Sopranos and I think it’s also a usable analogy here. The Sopranos are great as a whole. But, individually, lets face it, season four kind of sucked. I think 2017-2018 is going to be Jim Boeheims season 4.
I am taking a bit of a risk here, and admittedly possibly being a bit dramatic because, there are some players on this roster, but they also lost a ton. The quality players on this roster also come with a few question marks. There is attrition everywhere in college basketball these days, nobody goes unscathed, however, in 2017-18, the notorious nose picker could have had Chris McCullough, BJ Johnson, Tyler Lydon, Malachi Richardson, Kaleb Joseph and Ron Patterson on his roster. That is a lot of stars.
Now, I can understand Johnson going pro, maybe even Lydon. Patterson was probably a bit over his head in the ACC, he ended up in the Summit league and averaged 9.3/2/2 for IUPUI last season.
Joseph just finished up his redshirt season after transferring to Creighton, and will be active for the Blue Jays this season. I am curious as to what happened to Kaleb. A four star player out of high school, he seemed to fall out of favor after having a fairly strong freshman campaign at ‘Cuse. His sophomore season though, he couldn’t even get on the floor. I guess we will find out if a change of scenery was what was needed or if there are bigger problems.
Richardson was one of those guys, had a great freshman season, especially in the tournament, and took advantage of his stock. I wasn’t sold. I thought he could have been a hell of a college basketball player but I didn’t think he was quite there for the next level. Now, there is no training quite like on the job training and college did just what it was supposed to do, it got Richardson the interview, now he needs to make the most of it.
Let’s take a look at who is still in upstate NY.
The bad is, it’s Syracuse’ turn to possibly take one on the chin. Very rarely do programs lose this many players of a high-caliber and succeed at a high level the following year. Let us not forget, this team only won 19 games last year. This offseason they lost 51 points, 24 rebounds and around 10 assists per game. The team averaged 76 ppg last season. So, for those math superstars out there that’s roughly 66% of their scoring from a team who won less than 20 games and is bringing in the #38 recruiting class in the country (according to 247 sports). Now granted, there are some things to explore in that ranking and those numbers. I’ll do my best to explain but first, lets take a look at what was lost.
- DaJuan Coleman: I am no insider but just watching ACC games last year, Coleman seemed like the heart and soul of the team. A former highly coveted recruit Coleman had some bad luck with injuries was never able to realize his potential, but was still able to average about 6 and 5 a game last season.
- Tyler Roberson: I am not sure what happened to this guy. The super athletic forward just never took the next step and somehow never averaged over a block a game despite being typically the most athletic guy on the floor and foolishly long. Somehow only averaged 5 and 5 a game last year.
- Tyler Lydon: Lydon predictably went pro with the current trend in the NBA favoring big forwards who can stretch the floor and create space. He is 6’8 and shoots 40% from deep. He can carve a niche. He can be Ryan Anderson and make a ton of money.
- John Gillon: The stop-gap option at point guard for Syracuse didn’t have a fantastic season but in his defense, he wasn’t a fucking point guard to begin with. He was serviceable, he made some mistakes, but he also hit that shot versus Duke, which means Duke lost, so he is immediately one of my favorite players of all time.
- Andrew White III: 18.5 ppg and 4.6rpg while shooting 40% from deep and 84% from the line. The Nebraska transfer was fantastic for Syracuse and single handily beat GT (40 points) and scored 20+ points for seven straight games from January 24th to February 13th, averaging 23.9 ppg, during a span which the Orange went 5-2.
At the end of the day, Syracuse is still Syracuse. There is talent on this roster, it’s just unproven talent. Granted, Syracuse legend Gerry McNamara has missed on a couple of recruits that were thought to be strong Syracuse leans recently in Quade Green and Jordan Tucker. In Gerry’s’ defense both recruits were rumored to have given a verbal only to pull a 180 later. Stories like this are why I will never be a fan of OAD factories like UK and Duke. I actually tolerate UK more than Duke because at least Calipari admits what he is instead of Coach K who will try to convince you that Dukes Sociology program is legit instead of just a program to hide basketball recruits. Annnnnyways, point guard has been a problem since Tyler Ennis went pro after his fantastic freshman year.
Bit of a tangent there, but hey, there it is…
- Tyus Battle: This kid is a legit star. He will break out this year and be one of the top scorers in the ACC. Sometimes got lost in the offense last year because of both John Gillons challenges with the point guard position and Andrew Whites love of Andrew White, Battle is a highly skilled wing that averaged 11.3 points, 2 rebounds, 2 assists and a steal each game as a freshman while shooting 37% from deep and 80% from the line. He will be a top 12 scorer in the conference this year.
- Geno Thorpe: A South Florida graduate transfer who also formerly played for Penn St. , Thorpe averaged over 15 points 4 rebounds and almost 3 assists per game. By default, Thorpe will probably man the 1 spot for ‘Cuse this year, which is not his natural position but he is also the most capable. He will look to fill the void left by that huge scoring loss in the offseason. How he handles the move from the American to the ACC will be an interesting storyline.
- There are a couple very talented players returning for JB as big man Taurean Thompson and former 4 star point guard Franklin Howard both return for Cuse. Unlike some, I am a believer in Thompson, a sophomore, moving forward as a talent. He has a very nice foul line jumper but needs to work on his rebounding and rim protection. He did appear to be making progress on the glass as he had four games of 8 rebounds or more in his last ten games after averaging under 4rpg on the season. Howard averaged 4.5 ppg 1.6rpg and 3.6apg in 16 mpg while maintaining an A/TO of over 2 which is excellent. If Howard can double those minutes and allow Thorpe to move to the 2G position Syracuse can exceed expectations.
- A couple players return from injury for the Orange as well with Paschal Chukwu and Matthew Moyer. Chukwu, a 7-2 225lb center, averaged 4.1 rpg in limited minutes for 7 games before suffering a torn retina (bloody hell) and ending his season. Moyer, a former 4 star recruit suffered a broken foot during the summer and after coming back and playing in an exhibition, experienced discomfort and decided to shut it down and come back fully healthy. It cannot be understated how important Moyer is this season for the Orange. A 6’8 220 forward, Moyer is a really nice player who has transformed his body and may be one of the best players in the conference this year that no one is expecting.
The recruits Boeheim was able to land isn’t necessarily a bad class, they are just being combined with a roster that doesn’t have of high level success at the ACC level.
- Howard Washington, Oshae Brisset and Bourama Sidibe are all high 3, low 4 star recruits, but I am not sure all or any are natural scorers which is what Syracuse needs at this juncture. They seem more like a building block class that will be solid players as upperclassman. As a rule I rarely ever depend on freshman big men being huge difference makes unless they are very highly touted, transcendent players. For example, Thompson was a a top 90 player and didnt really come into his own until very late in the season.
- Marek Dolezaj was a late arrival to the Cuse class after the Slovakian blew up in the spring of 2017. He is a typical Euro in the sense that he is a skilled 6’9 combo forward and in the fact that he only weighs 195lbs. He has potential to be a star at Syracuse eventually but I am not sure it will be this season. He did average 13.4, 7.1 and 2.5 in the 2016 U18 FIBA Euro Championships. He chose Cuse over Florida, Vanderbilt and Georgia Tech.
Help is on the way for Syracuse and Darius Bazley is a damn good player and will be on campus next season. The Orange are also in hot pursuit of Jalen Carey and recently made his final 6 and scheduled an official visit. Elijah Hughes is sitting out this year after transferring in from East Carolina (sit 1 play 3, 7.8ppg) and will provide an additional scorer next year. If Boeheim is able to land Carey as well as IMG Academy wing Eric Ayala (recently made their final 9, more than likely the favorite) and possibly Battles younger brother, Khalif, the Orange will be back in the race for the top of the ACC sooner rather than later. Unfortunately this team just doesn’t have the experience or the scoring to compete at this level this year in my opinion. There are also rumblings that Thompson hasn’t been on campus over the summer working out with his teammates. It’s not something I would be overly concerned about but it is an interesting wrinkle.
Predicted Starting 5: Thorpe, Howard, Battle, Moyer, Thompson.
Try a Blah Blah IPA. I tried 3 during this write up. Delicious.