Has this season been Jim Boeheim’s best coaching at Syracuse? It’s close.

Jim Boeheim
Syracuse head coach Jim Boeheim coaches from the sidelines. Mandatory Photo Credit: Mark Konezny-USA TODAY Sports.

Yesterday, my colleague Chris McGlynn wrote that Jim Boeheim deserves coach of the year for the job he’s done with the Orange this year.

There are many reasons why Boeheim deserves this distinction, and Chris laid out several of these reasons succinctly.

But I wanted to take a more formulaic approach to this equation. In my opinion, a great coach is a person who can get the most NCAA Tourney wins given the talent on his team. To be sure, great college coaches also need to be able to recruit, but Syracuse has been limited in this department because of sanctions.

I came up with this chart to track the last 10 years of Boeheim’s teams. Syracuse is known as one of the best NBA factories, and Boeheim’s teams have had at least two NBA players on his teams during this time (assuming that Tyus Battle and Oshae Brissett are NBA guys, which, I believe, they are).

I then went back through the last 10 years and assigned a number to each round they reach in the NCAA Tournament. If Syracuse failed to make March Madness, which happened in 2015 (self-imposed postseason ban) and 2017 (NIT), I assigned a “0” to that season. If Syracuse was eliminated in the first round, I’d put a “1” and then add on for each round they advanced. So a Sweet 16 counts as a “3” and a Final Four would count as a “5.”

I then tallied the number of NBA players on each team, taking out Wes Johnson from the 2009 team and Michael Gbinije from 2013 since they were redshirts. Tyus Battle and Oshae Brissett are both listed in mock drafts for this year and next, so I feel comfortable listing them on this chart. If Elijah Hughes eventually becomes a pro caliber player, he would still not count on this 2018 team since he’s in a redshirt season. If Marek Dolezaj becomes an NBA prospect down the line, or if Brissett and Battle never play an NBA game, I can certainly revisit this article.

To arrive at my score, I simply divided the number of rounds Syracuse advanced by the number of NBA players (meaning that the player has played at least one NBA game) on the team.

» Related: Five keys for Syracuse basketball against Duke

This rough formula gives a fairly accurate portrayal of how far Syracuse went versus the talent it had on its team. The higher the number, the “better” job Boeheim has done coaching up his team:

Year Result Number of NBA Players NBA Players Score
2009 Sweet 16 4 Jonny Flynn, Arinze Onuaku, Andy Rautins, Kris Joseph (*Wes Johnson) 0.75
2010 Sweet 16 5 Andy Rautins, Wes Johnson, Arinze Onuaku, Kris Joseph, James Southerland 0.6
2011 Round of 32 4 Kris Joseph, Fab Melo, Dion Waiters, James Southerland 0.5
2012 Elite 8 6 Kris Joseph, Fab Melo, Dion Waiters, James Southerland, Michael-Carter Williams, Rakeem Christmas 0.667
2013 Final 4 4 Michael Carter-Williams, Rakeem Christmas, James Southerland, Jerami Grant (*Michael Gbinije) 1.25
2014 Round of 32 4 Tyler Ennis, Jerami Grant, Rakeem Christmas, Michael Gbinije 0.5
2015 N/A 3 Michael Gbinije, Rakeem Christmas, Chris McCullough N/A
2016 Final 4 3 Michael Gbinije, Malachi Richardson, Tyler Lydon 1.667
2017 NIT 2 **Tyus Battle, Tyler Lydon N/A
2018 ? 2 **Tyus Battle, **Oshae Brissett ?

Boeheim won Coach of the Year in 2010, and deservedly so, since Syracuse was the No. 1 team in the country for a week, but it actually falls in the bottom half of the past decade in terms of NCAA performance vis-à-vis NBA talent because the Orange was ousted by eventual NCAA Finalist Butler in the Sweet 16 and that team had six NBA players.

Not surprisingly, the 2016 team had the highest score given only three NBA caliber players and given that this team made an improbable run to the Final Four.

This year’s edition currently stands with a score of 1.5, and this score can only grow. A win over Duke would put the score at 2.0, which would eclipse the 2016 team because Syracuse only has two players that are projected on mock drafts at this point. An unlikely Final Four run would score them at 2.5, which would still be behind the 2003 National Championship team (a score of 3.5 with Carmelo Anthony and Hakim Warrick as pros) and the 1996 NCAA Finalist team (6.0, only John Wallace).

While we’re on the topic of that 1996 team, the Kentucky team they lost to featured nine (!) pros, which gives them a rather pedestrian score of .77.

Just food for thought as you consider the type of job Boeheim has done this season given the limited amount of talent he has.

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About Wes Cheng 2907 Articles
Wes has worked for Rivals.com covering the New York Knicks, as well as for Scout.com covering Syracuse athletics. Wes has also been a contributing writer for the South China Morning Post (Hong Kong), for SportsNet New York (SNY) as a news desk writer covering all of New York professional sports, 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 with a degree in journalism. Contact him at wes[at]sujuiceonline.com.