With no scholarship seniors on the 2019-20 roster, the impact of the coronavirus seemed minimal on Syracuse men’s basketball following an uneven season. Elijah Hughes may have an NBA decision to make, but I would not be surprised to see him back in Central New York next year.
As a team, it was unlikely SU would reach the NCAA Tournament, needing to win the ACC Tournament to secure a bid. Seeing as the Orange has never reached the semifinal in Greensboro, the chances of a Cinderella run were far-fetched.
The sudden end to the college basketball season did finish the careers of several SU players. Brycen Goodine announced his decision to transfer on Twitter, and reports are that Howard Washington and Jalen Carey will be leaving as well.
Now, on their own, none of these players really moved the needle. Goodine appeared in 27 games, averaging 8.7 minutes of action and just 1.9 points per contest. Washington and Carey did not even meet those numbers, though it should be noted Carey missed most of the season due to injury. Bottom line, any one of these players leaving the program would not be much of a blow.
However, all three of them transferring at once leaves Syracuse with very little backcourt depth. Their departures mean Joe Girard and Buddy Boeheim will be the only guards returning for next year. Hughes handles guard responsibilities as well, but he’s still mulling his decision to turn pro, and he’s primarily utilized as a forward.
The consensus is that any of these players leaving is not a surprise. All three of them leaving on the other hand is a bit of a shock. You would think that just one of them would hang around to soak up minutes.
Syracuse does have one guard committed for next season in Kadary Richmond. He is listed as a combo guard on 24/7Sports. In truth, I’m not really sure that is enough.
Jim Boeheim might be famous for his short bench and running the same guys out there for 36-40 minutes per game. If Hughes does decide to make the jump to the NBA, Syracuse could be in a world of trouble. I think it is time for the Orange to visit the world of grad transfers.
SU has had some success with this model before, landing Andrew White III from Nebraska and John Gillon from Colorado State. Here is a quick look at who Boeheim could consider targeting to fill out his bench.
Josh Sharkey, G, Samford
Sharkey led a not-so-talented Samford team to a 10-23 record this season. Playing in the Southern Conference is nothing like playing in the ACC, so perhaps Sharkey could be a good fit to pick up a lot of minutes as a rotation guard. He brings a lot to the table as a playmaker, having averaged 7.2 assists per game each of the past two seasons. He did commit a lot of turnovers, leading the nation with 5.9 per game, but he also made 41 3s this season and scored 18 points per game. In the end, I think this probably isn’t the best fit for him, as Boeheim tends to chew up guards for turnovers.
Tommy Funk, G, Army
Another player built to play point guard, Funk had a fantastic season for the Black Knights. He averaged 7.1 assists per game while committing just 2.8 turnovers. Funk also made 59 3s, shooting at least 34.5 percent from behind the arc each of the past three seasons. He is only 5’11” but has proven scoring ability (17.5 points per game) this season. On top of that, he would get to stay in the state for his final season of college basketball. If Funk has any interest, I think he would be a good fit.
Mike Smith, G, Columbia
Sticking with New York college guards, Smith just completed a very successful career with the Lions that saw him average 22.8 points per game in his senior year. He is not as prolific of a passer as the other two I have mentioned, but he still amassed 4.5 assists per game. Smith turned in a bounce back year as a 3-point shooter. He made 34.1 percent of his attempts in the 2019-20 after dipping to just 25 percent the season prior. In the end, I think he will end up looking elsewhere, wanting to start, rather than come off the bench. I don’t see him unseating Girard or Boeheim to do so.
Brendan Barry, G, Dartmouth
The run on Ivy leaguers continues. Barry seems like the perfect candidate for a bench role in Boeheim’s system. He is long enough a 6’2” to play in the zone and a prolific 3-point shooter. He hit 44.5 percent of his attempts from behind the arc in his Dartmouth career, including 81 made 3s as a junior. His stock might be down slightly because he missed all of his senior year due to injury. He has enough playmaking ability to get by and, perhaps most importantly, does not turn the ball over much. He is originally from New Jersey and would be a huge addition to the Syracuse bench.
Jake Killingsworth, G, Columbia
I can’t stay away from the Ivy League! Killingsworth missed the majority of the 2017-18 season, so he has one more year of eligibility and I think it would make a ton of sense for him to do it in orange. He is more of an off-ball guard, but he is a solid rebounder and 3-point shooter. At 6’5” he should have requisite size to fit into the top of the zone. He profiles best as a role player off the bench, which is exactly what SU needs.