As we know from years of watching Syracuse basketball, Jim Boeheim doesn't get very creative when it comes to his lineups. He plays his best five players and generally only makes substitutions when someone makes a boneheaded play or gets into foul trouble.
The 2015-16 season could be no different. Trevor Cooney, Michael Gbinije and Tyler Roberson will play 35-38 minutes a game, Kaleb Joseph can stay on the floor as long as he plays under control and makes improvements from last season, and everyone else will kind of fill in as Boeheim sees fit.
But this year, Boeheim has a few versatile players at his disposal who can play multiple positions and cause matchups problems for defenders depending on the opposition.
The key player in Boeheim's rotation will be Dajuan Coleman. The local big man has missed the better part of two seasons due to knee injuries, and his health and conditioning will have a meaningful impact on what Boeheim can do with his lineups.
Assuming (fingers crossed) Coleman can stay on the floor this season, let's have a look at the different lineups Boeheim can put on the floor.
Starters: Kaleb Joseph, Trevor Cooney, Mike Gbinije, Tyler Roberson, Dajuan Coleman
This is the most logical starting lineup to expect heading into the season. Joseph, Cooney, Gbinije and Roberson are all returning players who contributed last season and on whom Boeheim can count. As I mentioned, the key is Coleman. He's the most talented center on the team and the only one with meaningful playing experience. Boeheim will likely play him as much as he can.
The Dion Waiters Memorial Scoring 6-Man Lineup: Joseph, Cooney, Malachi Richardson, Gbinije, Coleman
Whether it was Kris Joseph, James Southerland or Dion Waiters, Boeheim has liked to bring in a scoring threat off the bench to change the game and give his team a goose on the offensive end.
This season, that player will be Malachi Richardson. The 6'6" Richardson is a versatile freshman who can stretch the floor with his jump shot and provide the Orange with some extra scoring that Roberson can't contribute from the perimeter.
If the offense gets off to a sluggish start or Roberson somehow struggles, expect Boeheim to call Richardson's number for that extra scoring punch.
Uh Oh, Joseph Is Still Struggling: Gbinije, Cooney, Richardson, Roberson, Coleman
Here we have the contingency plan for Joseph continuing to struggle to run the point. Gbinije showed us last year he is capable of initiating the offense. His ability to attack the rim, handle the ball and find his teammates make him a perfect option to spell Joseph when the young point guard struggles.
In addition, Gbinije's size can make the defense that much more intimidating with a 6'4" Cooney and 6'7" Gbinije patrolling the top of the zone. Both are great defenders, so they could give opposing backcourts trouble as they push them out toward half court.
Spread The Floor With Size: Gbinije, Cooney, Richardson, Tyler Lydon, Coleman
As Boeheim told Mike Waters of Syracuse.com, Richardson will likely play mostly small forward to start with. Boeheim also said "Tyler Lydon, Tyler Roberson and Malachi can play forward and Mike (Gbinije) will play small forward, too. I think there will be several situations where we use (Richardson) in a 3-forward type rotation.''
In this situation, Boeheim would be playing three forwards with Gbinije playing a type of point-forward role. Running out these players could cause some matchup issues for opponents as well as putting four shooters on the floor around Coleman.
But Syracuse wouldn't, in theory, lose much on the backboards. At 6'8", Lydon is a legit inside-out threat who can shoot from distance and still crash the glass. He was also the favorite of Boeheim's Army when the SU alumni team praticed for The Basketball Tournament with the current Orange squad. Aside from Gbinije, Lydon could end up being this year's most versatile player.
DEFCON 1 (or Coleman Gets Hurt/Into Foul Trouble): Joseph, Cooney, Gbinije, Richardson, Roberson/Chino Obokoh
This is every Orange coach and fan's nightmare scenario. If Coleman gets hurt again or picks up two early fouls, Boeheim will have a tough decision for who to put in the middle of the zone.
This is where the loss of freshman Moustapha Diagne will be felt most. Without Diagne, the Orange are paper-thin on the center depth chart. Depending on matchups, Boeheim could either go with Obokoh or Roberson in the middle. If the opposition has a legit big-man threat in the middle, Obokoh will go in. But if the Orange can survive going small, Roberson could slide into the middle.
Neither is an ideal situation. With Obokoh, Syracuse would basically be playing four-on-five on offense. And with Roberson, the Orange could suffer on the glass. If only Paschal Chukwu could change schools and take the floor right away like, you know, coaches can.
But either way, we know Coleman can't play 40 minutes a game; he's going to need a break at some point. When he has a seat, Syracuse's margin for error will be slim.
There are a couple other players (freshman Franklin Howard and maybe, maybe sophomore Doyin Akintobi-Adeyeye) that could see the floor, but Boeheim generally only likes to go seven deep. It will be interesting to see how Boeheim manages this year's lineup, especially with the lack of bodies in the middle.