So we all know about the recent downturn of the basketball team, and most of the stated reasons for it haven't changed from loss to loss or analyst to analyst: injuries and a lack of depth. The two most recent losses were mainly attributed to Jerami Grant's injury, and the ones before that to Baye Keita's injury/recovery and still the general lack of depth the team has had all season.
Sure, DaJuan Coleman's season-ending injury is intrinsically in the conversation when discussing the Cuse's lack of depth, particularly when looking at Keita's ineffectiveness since his injury, but Coleman's actual impact on the team has not been discussed much. I was thinking about it today and so I decided to take a look at the team's games and point differentials before and after Coleman's injury...
Record: 12-0 (Coleman played three minutes in one game after Villanova, but I put the cutoff at Nova nonetheless)
Average margin of victory: 13.75 points
Rebounding: Won 7 times, tied three times, lost twice
Times held below 60 pts: 1
Average margin of victory: 8.7 points
Rebounding: Won 10 times, lost 8
Times held below 60 pts: 9
Clearly, Syracuse has been a worse team since conference play started, which Coleman's injury almost correlates with (only 1 non-con game since he's been hurt), you don't need me to tell you that. But looking at these numbers, its hard for me to believe that Coleman didn't make this team a lot better than we may have thought. When you take out the two outliers in the post-Coleman injury era (E. Michigan and Virginia Tech) in which the Orange won by more than 20 points, the average margin of victory drops to 6.6 points. Ironically, Coleman actually played 3 minutes in the VT game.
Now, look at Coleman's rebounding numbers: 4.2 REB in 13.0 minutes, or 1 rebound every 3.1 minutes. Jerami grant averages 1 rebound every 4.6 minutes, and Rakeem Christmas 1 every 4.7. This also clearly correlates to the amount of times the Orange lost the rebounding battle: only twice in the first 14 games, but 8 times in the 18 since.
Yes, the team is playing significantly superior competition in conference play, but tell me, how much better is Georgia Tech or Boston College, who we lost to, than Binghamton, who we beat by 28? We beat Indiana by 17 and Villanova by 16 with Coleman, but only won by more than ten five times since, and many of those games were close until the last few minutes.
Sure, the argument can be made that Coleman's injury only adds to our lack of depth, but I think it's something more. He was by far the team's best rebounder and made a significant impact in his limited minutes. There's a reason he started over Grant: to make an impression on the other team early in the game. He was a big body in the middle who could play with the opponents psyche, even if for only 5 quick minutes early. Him and Rakeem down low is a massive amount of length that tells opposing guards, "stay out." Christmas and Keita are terrible together in the paint, offensively and defensively.
Looking at Cuse's KenPom rankings, the team is not very high in either offense or defense. I don't have an account so I can't know for sure, but I think that we were much higher earlier in the season in both categories (if someone has an account and could check, that'd be great).
The team's disappointing performance since, well, January really can be attributed to a simple lack of depth and/or just worse play, but I think it might be deeper than that. I think Coleman had a significantly bigger impact on this team than anyone really thought. That being said, I still think the team can get it together and make a lot of noise in the tournament, but we have to pretend every game is against Duke and its February 1st and its at the Dome.... basically, play our best in every game, or clearly we're vulnerable.
Maybe I'm crazy and it's just depth. Let me know what you think.