Sure, Nerlens Noel would’ve been great with Syracuse.
He would’ve gobbled up rebounds, he would’ve swatted shots, he would’ve thrown down some thunderous dunks.
He would’ve put Syracuse in contention for a National Title. He would’ve won over fans and inspired many in Central New York to change their haircuts. He may have been the best one-and-done since Carmelo Anthony.
Instead, he’s taking his talents (poor, poor choice of words—how did that phrase end up for Lebron?) to the University of Kentucky.
This, of course, wasn’t shocking. It was expected. Kentucky, and specifically, Coach Cal is the King of one-and-done.
Who needs Derrick Rose when you have John Wall?
And who needs John Wall when you have Anthony Davis?
In the end, it was the right decision for Noel for the goals he wanted to achieve. He wanted the shortest path to the NBA possible, and Calipari was the quickest ride there. It doesn’t hurt that Coach Cal had a national championship to boot.
A year from now, Calipari will be finishing up another deep run in the tournament and Noel will be signing with an agent. Everyone in that equation wins.
So where does that leave Syracuse?
Certainly not in as good a place as before.
Let me make this as clear as possible—Syracuse would’ve been much, much better off with Noel. Anyone trying to say otherwise is just attempting to rationalize.
But the Orange are far from the meek and helpless.
It’s definitely a sign of an “elite” (yes, I said it) program when the second prize for not landing a recruit is another McDonald’s All American who devours rebounds (DaJuan Coleman was deciding between Syracuse and Kentucky as well).
And if Coleman isn’t ready? Well, one of the biggest strengths on the Orange, and, ironically likely one of the bigger reasons Noel didn’t go Orange, is their depth at center.
Another McDonald’s All American, Rakeem Christmas, showed flashes of improving from his freshman to sophomore year like Fab Melo did in the tournament. And don’t count out Baye Keita, who filled in admirably for Melo.
Then, there are the returns of James Southerland, Brandon Triche, and CJ Fair, who all played critical roles in Syracuse losing just three games last season. Couple that with the development of Michael Carter-Williams, the return of Trevor Cooney and the addition of Jermari Grant, and Syracuse once again has a team that is among the deepest in the country, and should start the season as one of the top 15 teams.
Of course, Syracuse would’ve been a great team with Noel.
But Syracuse has the potential to be a very good team, even with Noel taking his talents elsewhere.