In the latest edition of a multi-part series, editorial staff of The Juice Online discuss various topics on Syracuse athletics. Today’s topic: As the 2016-17 Syracuse basketball season approaches, the roster has mostly taken shape. Who will start? The Juice Online’s Saugat Sen and Wes Cheng weighed in.
Wesley Cheng: Saugat, barring a graduate transfer (Andrew White?), the 2016-17 Syracuse basketball roster is set. So I ask you: Who will be the starting five for this season?
Saugat Sen: It has been quite a while since we had so many new faces that may end up in the starting five. Last year, we knew fifth year seniors Michael Gbinije and Trevor Cooney were guaranteed a spot, as was freshman superstar Malachi Richardson. Now, they’re all gone. Even without Andrew White, Syracuse has five new players that can make an impact: Taurean Thompson, Paschal Chukwu, Tyus Battle, John Gillon and Matt Moyer. The front court appears to be set. Seniors Dajuan Coleman, Tyler Roberson, and likely 2017 NBA lottery pick, Tyler Lydon. So who do you have starting in the backcourt?
WC: You’re right. Lydon and Roberson are definitely locked into the starting lineup. I’m less sure about Coleman given the defensive abilities of Chukwu, but Syracuse head coach Jim Boeheim has tended to want to play seniors in the starting five, even if it’s just a “ceremonial” role (think Craig Forth). That deference to experience leads me to think that Gillon will start, and if graduate transfer Andrew White commits to Syracuse, he will join Gillon in the backcourt. If White comes to Syracuse, do you have him starting?
SS: I agree with you on Coleman’s role. Boeheim is a big softy (yes, you read correctly) when it comes to players that have worked hard and have been loyal to the program. Coleman deserves to be in the starting lineup and he has more of an offensive skill set than Chukwu. If White comes to Syracuse, he would be the most talented guard, so I would put him in the starting lineup. But who gets the nod for that second spot atop the zone? Howard, because he has experience playing the zone? Gillon, because he has four years of college experience? Or Battle, who had offers from Duke, UConn and Louisville among others? My nod goes to Battle. He is 6’6″ and has played for the U-17 USA team and is drawing early comparisons to Michael Carter-Williams. So with White, it would be: White/Battle/Lydon/Roberson/Coleman. What if Syracuse doesn’t get White? Who do you have starting?
WC: For the same reasons why Coleman will start in the front court, I don’t think Battle will start in the backcourt. Boeheim favors experience, and Howard still has that over Battle. Plus, I think Boeheim likes having an extra ball handler in the backcourt. The only situation I could see Battle starting is if the offense is so stagnant that Boeheim needs to inject some life into the starting five. But traditionally, you know that Boeheim likes bringing a spark off the bench (Kris Joseph, James Southerland, Dion Waiters). So my final answer if White comes is: White/Gillon/Lydon/Roberson/Coleman. If he doesn’t come, it would be: Howard/Gillon/Lydon/Roberson/Coleman. Saugat, your final answer?
SS: If Battle is one starter, and White is not wearing Orange next year, then the final guard position is going to be really tough to call. Howard was primarily a shooting guard in high school and lost all of his junior year to an ACL tear. So he was slow to start his Syracuse career. When we did see him last year, he was mostly as a passer and driver as opposed to a scorer (1.6 PPG, 1.8 APG). What the team really needs is another 3-point shooter to compliment Lydon, which gives a huge advantage to Gillon. In his first two years at Colorado State, he shot close to 40 percent from beyond the arc. So if it comes down to Howard’s Syracuse experience versus Gillon’s shooting, I go with the latter. Gillon/Battle/Lydon/Roberson/Coleman.