For Syracuse basketball, talent is returning, and wins should, too

Joseph Girard III drives against Duke. Mandatory Credit: Kicia Sears, The Juice Online.

Earlier in the month, I analyzed how the sanctions from the 2015 season affected recruiting, dropping Syracuse from a perennial powerhouse into a team that was barely recruiting inside the top 100.

With that talent drop off has predictably come a drop in win totals per season. Prior to sanctions, SU was routinely recruiting in the mid-to-high 90s, with their 30 win season in the 2012-13 season with a squad whose rotation players averaged a score of just over 95 according to 247 rankings.

That average talent rating continued into the 2017-18 season, but it really started to taper off after that. The average player rankings relative to season win totals is illustrated in the chart below:

There are several things you should keep in mind when looking at this chart.

» Related: What to expect from Syracuse basketball’s bench in 2020-21

  • The blue line only takes rotation players into account. So a player like Chinonso Obokoh, rated 87.37, didn’t lower the average player rating since he was never a regular contributor.
  • That said, the overall quality of the player ratings was hurt by the docking of scholarships following the 2014-15 season, even if it didn’t show in the rotation players immediately. Because Syracuse had less opportunities to recruit and scholarships to hand out, the Orange couldn’t take as many chances on a player like Obokoh.
  • The quality of rotation dipped as a result because a player like Joe Girard III (rated 89.34) was pushed into action a lot quicker than Syracuse would like. In normal times, Girard would be playing behind a more experienced upperclassman that SU had used one of their empty scholarships on.
  • Other things like players departing earlier than they maybe should have also hurt Syracuse. Oshae Brissett and Chris McCullough eventually found their ways onto NBA rosters, but perhaps another season at Syracuse could’ve helped both their stock and SU’s bottom line.
  • There is an asterisk for the 2014-15 season. That year, Syracuse banned itself from postseason play. They were likely an NIT team, but they likely would’ve picked up a couple of more wins had they been allowed to play.
  • The 2019-20 season as an asterisk as well, since all postseason activity was canceled due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
  • Trevor Cooney (88), James Southerland (95) and John Gillon (85) didn’t have rankings in the 247 system, so I assigned them the numbers in the parenthesis. That’s because Cooney was rated three stars, Southerland four, and Gillon was not ranked.

With all of that in mind, as you can see, the blue line was trending downward after the sanctions, and finally, it is trending upward. That is because Syracuse is fully past the sanctions and has resumed full recruiting activity with their normal scholarship allotment.

I had to guess the rotation for the next two seasons, since I’m not entirely sure who will be in the rotation, and I’m not accounting for future transfers and commits. I also included Alan Griffin in the 2020-21 season, counting on him getting a waiver to be immediately eligible.

This was my guess at SU’s key players for next season:

Player Rating
Joseph Girard 89.34
Buddy Boeheim 86.6
Alan Griffin 90.38
Marek Dolezaj 93.58
Bourama Sidibe 88.63
Quincy Guerrier 93.58
Kadary Richmond 96.86

The addition of Benny Williams (98.26) also bumps up the blue line for the 2021-22 season. This was my guess at who may be in the rotation, knowing that Syracuse is still pursuing several high profile names, including Micawber Etienne (97.92), which would continue the upward trend of that blue line.

For now, this is how I arrived at my number for 2021-22:

Player Rating
Joseph Girard 89.34
Buddy Boeheim 86.6
Alan Griffin 90.38
Benny Williams 98.26
Jesse Edwards 89.45
Quincy Guerrier 93.58
Kadary Richmond 96.86

Undoubtedly, Dior Johnson (99.80) would certainly raise that blue line even further in the 2022-23 season. But it’s really hard to predict a rotation three years out, so I just kept it at two seasons in advance.

A review of the rankings also showed me that recruiting rankings are a good baseline of where an athlete stands (there are few 5-stars that turn into busts), but Syracuse has found diamonds in the rough, including Elijah Hughes (87.26) and potentially with Griffin (90.38).

Still, rankings do mean something, and talent evaluations have gotten more and more accurate over time. If that holds true, the win totals should follow, and perhaps we can start thinking about Syracuse as the team they were prior to the sanctions taking effect.

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About Wes Cheng 2907 Articles
Wes has worked for covering the New York Knicks, as well as for 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]