After losing their top 3 scorers last year, 2 were NBA draft picks and one started over 100 games with the team, Syracuse can be even more fun to watch than they were when they made it to the Elite Eight. Here’s why:
Explosive, Proven Scoring
The Orange’s top three scorers last year, Malachi Richardson, Michael Gbinije, and Trevor Cooney are all finished their Syracuse careers. Sharpshooter Andrew White III, a fifth year transfer from Nebraska, looks like a likely candidate to replace that production lost. In 34 appearances last year, White reached double digits in 28 of them.
Another transfer, Jon Gillon, will join the Orange backcourt after leaving Colorado state coming off of a year in which he averaged 13 points per game along with four assists. Highly touted Freshman Tyus Battle will also contribute in the scoring column, along with a tag team of returning big men from last year who will need to continue scoring points for Cuse.
Tag Team of Tylers
Senior, Tyler Roberson, led the Orange with 8.5 rebounds per game last year, and added on about as many points per game (8.8). Roberson isn’t much of a shooter, but he will get a lot of his points this year directly from his effort on the offensive glass. Don’t be surprised if Roberson averages close to a double-double again this season. If Roberson ups his free throw percentage above 60%, he could easily improve upon his scoring numbers.
Tyler Lydon averaged 10 points a game in his Freshman campaign, which leads all returning Orange players. And he'll have a lot more opportunities to shoot this year, which will be great for Orange fans if Lydon shoots anywhere near 40% from behind the 3-point line again this season. Lydon averaged over six rebounds a game last year. But with Roberson’s tenacious rebounding, and a plethora of big men to rebound at the 5 position, Lydon should have a lot of opportunities to stretch the floor at the 4 spot.
Full House in the Frontcourt
Along with The Terrific Tylers, the Orange has fifth-year man DaJuan Coleman returning to protect the paint. Coleman has fought injury to keep improving every year since being recruited out of Jamesville-Dewitt High School, and this will be his final year playing for the team. Where Syracuse is mainly composed of players who can at least dribble the ball a little bit, Coleman is the traditional big man in the middle of the 2-3 zone. Paschal Chukwu will also spend time at center for the Orange. Syracuse will also play freshman forwards Matthew Moyer and Taurean Thompson. Guard Andrew White III is 6’7” and averaged about six rebounds a game last year compared to 0.6 assists, which means he could play some minutes at the 3 this year for the Orange. That leaves Syracuse with 7 players who could see time at the forward or center position (and this isn’t even including 6’6” Tyus Battle, who will need to fill minutes in the backcourt).
Coach Boeheim has always depended on having long, rangy players across the floor. This year will be no different. Out of the ten players who will presumably see minutes in SU’s rotation this year, only two players are shorter than 6’6. Frank Howard, who will spend time at point guard this year for the Orange, is 6’5” himself. Four Syracuse players are 6’9 or taller (including 7’2” center Pascal Chukwu, the redshirt sophomore who transferred from Providence), so if the ball gets inside the 3-point line while the Orange are on defense, expect to see a lot of shots sent flying into the student section at the Carrier Dome.
Syracuse will have three ESPN top 100 recruits joining the team this year in guard Tyus Battle (#35) and forwards Matthew Moyer (#74) and Taurean Thompson (#75). Battle is a 6’6” guard with plenty of ways to score. Battle’s ability to take it to the hole, combined with his ability to pull up for 3’s on the fastbreak just as easily, will fit perfectly into the holes that were left by the departures of Gbinije and Richardson
Both Moyer (6’8”) and Thompson (6’10”) are athletic forwards who can pass, dribble, score, and defend. Thompson looks like he will be the bigger defensive presence of the two, and Moyer will probably have the ball in his hands more, but both will be able to effectively play the wing in Boeheim’s 2-3 zone defense. Syracuse will also have 3 sophomores playing this year, giving them 6 scholarship players who could return next year.
The Orange will play their first exhibition game of the season against Indiana (PA.) Tuesday night at 7:00 p.m. in the Carrier Dome, where we get our first look at Jim Boeheim’s new-look Orange in action as a full unit.