What will Syracuse’s starting lineup look like in the 2016-17 season?

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Cooney’s departure opens up a starting spot

What will Syracuse’s starting lineup look like in the 2016-17 season? There’s a lot of combinations that the Orange could have next season.

First off, Syracuse loses its starting backcourt of Trevor Cooney and Michael Gbinije. It may lose another starter depending on how Malachi Richardson fares in the NBA Combine, which may lead to him leaving Syracuse after his freshman season.

For argument’s sake, let’s say that Richardson chooses to leave. That would mean that Syracuse has two returning starters from last season: Tyler Roberson and Dajuan Coleman. Of those two, Roberson is the only one that is shoo-in to start.

Though Coleman was definitely effective at times last season, it was clear that he was a defensive liability, and Syracuse coach Jim Boeheim lamented many times that he wish he had more of a defensive stopper on the back line.

That stopper could be Paschal Chukwu, a 7-2 center that figures to work perfectly into SU’s vaunted 2-3 zone. Generally, Boeheim doesn’t like to pull starters out of the lineup, even with a more viable option on the bench. So I would still give the nod to Coleman, based on seniority alone.

Based on that, we have:

C: Coleman
F: Roberson

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If Richardson is definitely gone, Tyler Lydon figures to fill the other spot. The best part about Chukwu becoming eligible is that it allows Lydon to play more minutes at his natural position.

C: Coleman
F: Roberson
F: Lydon

The backcourt will be an interesting mix. Frank Howard wrestled the backup point guard spot away from Kaleb Joseph last season, and SU fans got to see his potential. Tyus Battle comes to Syracuse with a reputation for being able to score at will. Then, there is Colorado State transfer John Gillon, who as a graduate student will have the most experience of the three.

Again, deferring to experience, I think Boeheim will go with Gillon as the starting guard, with Battle as the off guard and Howard off the bench. So in a non-Richardson world, my projected starting lineup looks like this:

C: Coleman
F: Roberson
F: Lydon
G: Battle
G: Gillon

Now, let’s say that Richardson returns. Who does he knock out of the lineup?

One the one hand, Lydon was effective off the bench last season for Syracuse, and Richardson started at the wing position. On the other hand, SU could go big, with Richardson starting at guard for what would be an experienced lineup consisting of a graduate student, two seniors and two sophomores.

I could see the lineup going either way, but I would think Boeheim would want a bigger lineup and an offensive punch off the bench with Battle. In which case, if Richardson comes back, my projected starting lineup would be:

C: Coleman
F: Roberson
F: Lydon
G: Richardson
G: Gillon

Syracuse would likely go eight deep in this scenario, with Howard, Battle and Chukwu all seeing time off the bench, with Richardson sliding to the wing spots.

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Wes Cheng

About Wes Cheng

Wes has worked for Rivals.com covering the New York Knicks, as well as for Scout.com covering Syracuse athletics. Wes has also worked for the South China Morning Post (Hong Kong) and reported on the NBA and MLB for the New York Sportscene. A native of Long Island, New York, Wes graduated from Syracuse University in 2005. Follow him on Twitter @ChengWes.
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