Can Syracuse coach Jim Boeheim really employ a nine-man rotation?

NCAA Basketball: Jim Boeheim, Syracuse
Syracuse Orange head coach Jim Boeheim reacts to a call against during the second half at the Carrier Dome

Yesterday, I wrote about Jim Boeheim’s interview with Syracuse.com’s Donna Ditota, where he spoke about his son, Buddy Boeheim, not redshirting, and what his role will be on this year’s team.

Another interesting nugget that came out of that interview was Syracuse’s depth this season, and that Boeheim is thinking of employ up to a ten-man rotation.

“You’re going to play seven or eight, but the ninth guy can get in there and play a little bit,” Boeheim says to Ditota. “The 10th could in some situations play, too.”

What does it mean to be a rotation player? I’d define that as playing at least 10 minutes per contest and appearing in more than 90 percent of games.

With that criteria in mind, it’s been seven seasons since Boeheim has employed that deep of a rotation. That was the 2011-12 season, when Boeheim’s team had Final Four aspirations, and fell just short in the Elite 8.

That rotation was Scoop Jardine, Brandon Triche, Kris Joseph, Rakeem Christmas, Fab Melo, CJ Fair, Dion Waiters, James Southerland and Baye Keita.

Michael Carter-Williams appeared in 26 games of 37 games that season, or a little over 70 percent of the games, so he missed the cutoff for the rotation, though in those games, he did play 10.3 minutes per game. That seems to be what Boeheim has in mind when he says “the 10th could in some situations play, too.”

Here’s a chart of Syracuse’s rotations since that period of time:

Season # in Rotation Players Result
2017-18 7 Howard, Battle, Moyer, Brissett, Chukwu, Dolezaj, Sidibe Sweet 16
2016-17 7 Gillon, Battle, White, Lydon, Thompson, Roberson, Howard NIT 2
2015-16 7 Gbinije, Cooney, Richardson, Roberson, Coleman, Lydon, Howard Final Four
2014-15 7 Joseph, Cooney, Gbinije, Roberson, Christmas, Patterson, Johnson Banned
2013-14 7 Ennis, Cooney, Fair, Grant, Christmas, Keita, Gbinije Round of 32
2012-13 8 Carter-Williams, Triche, Fair, Christmas, Southerland, Keita, Grant, Cooney Final Four
2011-12 9 Jardine, Triche, Joseph, Christmas, Melo, Fair, Waiters, Southerland, Keita Elite 8

One thing to note here is that in the 2012-13 and 2016-17 seasons, Dajuan Coleman played significant minutes, but injuries made it so he couldn’t complete a full season, so I didn’t include him in the rotation. In the same vein, Chris McCullough was injured midway through the 2014-15 season, so he didn’t count toward the rotation number, either.

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I could see how the 2011-12 and the 2018-19 team lines up next to each other, and how Boeheim could actually employ a deep lineup:

2011-12 2018-19
Jardine Battle
Triche Howard
Joseph Brissett
Fair Dolezaj
Melo Chukwu
Christmas Braswell
Waiters Hughes
Southerland Carey
Keita Sidibe
Carter-Williams Boeheim

This chart leaves out Howard Washington, who’s still recovering from ACL surgery, and Boeheim hinted that he’s a redshirt candidate.

Also, this isn’t a perfect chart. Jalen Carey is almost certainly going to play a larger role than Southerland did. Southerland appeared in every game, but averaged just 16 minutes and 4.9 ppg.

Carey is a heralded freshman and a top 40 recruit, so it’s hard to see him being less productive than Southerland was.

Another difference in the chart will be the Christmas-Braswell line. Christmas was a ceremonial starter, appearing in 37 games, starting 35 of them. But the starting role, for all intents and purposes, was really CJ Fair’s role. But Christmas played 11.4 minutes per game, which is likely where Braswell will end up finishing, which is why they’re together.

One other note is the Howard-Triche line. I paired the two of them together because Triche had to sacrifice a lot of his playing time in that season to Waiters. Though Waiters never started, he finished as the team’s second leading scorer and played mostly in crunch time.

Howard may have to sacrifice some of his playing time if Hughes (“Elijah’s been the best player here this summer,” Boeheim said) emerges as a top option, which is also why I paired Hughes and Waiters together since it’s likely that he comes off the bench this season but plays starter minutes.

The bottom line is this: Boeheim will have plenty of options for how he wants to work his rotation. Could it be up to nine or ten players? It seems possible.

Equally as possible is that Boeheim reverts to the mean as the season progresses and plays the seven or so players he trusts the most.

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Wes Cheng
About Wes Cheng 2322 Articles
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.