It feels like it has been much longer than three months since we last got to watch a college basketball game. Any basketball game for that matter.
But we are just about two weeks away from the start of The Basketball Tournament (TBT) meaning we get to watch some of the greatest Syracuse basketball players suit up together again. Unlike last year’s team, this group seems a lot more balanced and has the potential to get back to the semifinals for the first time since 2017.
Some of last year’s key players are back. Eric Devendorf will once again lead the way offensively. The former grad transfer duo of Andrew White and John Gillon have signed on for another run. Brandon Triche will also be healthy this time around.
Outside of general manager Kevin Belby, that’s where the hold overs from last year end. That’s a good thing.
The 2019 version of Boeheim’s Army was a bit too old and lacked size. If you want to run that zone right, you need tons of length on the interior.
The additions are strong for this 2020 team. Chris McCullough is set to play this year after overseas commitments made him unavailable in 2019. He will be joined down low by Tyler Lydon and Donte Green. Green is the smallest of that group measuring in at 6’9″.
Last year’s team featured the interior presence of a 37-year old Hakim Warrick and 34-year old Daryl Watkins, so this a massive upgrade. Lydon and McCullough are both former first-round picks in the NBA in the past five years. They will bring a blend of athleticism and shooting to this team it lacked last year.
None of the three players are pure centers, but they fit well into the more modern style of play. Lydon especially can stretch the floor and should be long enough to alter shots around the basket. I am particularly excited to see McCullough in a pseudo Syracuse jersey again after his time with the Orange was cut short due to injury.
On the wing, Malachi Richardson and Demetris Nichols join the squad. Both of them were solid 3-point shooters in college, each finishing their careers with a roughly 35 percent conversion rate from behind the arc.
More than ever, this team is going to be able to spread the floor well and attack from deep. If nothing else, they have the potential to put up some huge offensive numbers.
This roster does still lack a ton of proven ball handlers. Gillon is a score-first point guard and Devendorf is more of a combo guard. White and Triche have some ball-handling ability, but should not relied on too heavily.
Additionally, this team will have the benefit of utilizing its full roster. With Triche out and McCullough unavailable, Boeheim’s Army only had nine players playing last year, which is still two too many for Jim Boeheim’s liking.
Overall, this team seems much better suited to make a run through the tournament. They also don’t have as many games to win to take the title.
The whole tournament will look a lot different this year because of the coronavirus. It is a 24-team bracket in Columbus, Ohio. Boeheim’s Army is the third seed in the tournament and will have a first-round bye.
The Syracuse alumni team’s first opponent will be the winner of a play-in game. Heartfire, featuring Isaiah Austin, Branden Dawson, Quincy Miller and Kristian Doolittle, will take on Men of Mackey. That mostly Purdue alumni team is led by Isaac Haas and Rapheal Davis.
One win puts Boeheim’s Army in the quarterfinals. It takes only four victories to claim this 2020 championship.
Basketball is almost back!