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2015-16 Syracuse Orange Basketball: Previewing the Centers

Easily the position with the most questions for Syracuse. Can any of the listed centers step up or will it be someone else?

Mark Konezny-USA TODAY Sports

This is a peculiar piece to write. The center position has been the Syracuse Orange men's basketball team biggest question mark heading into this season. Can DaJuan Coleman stay healthy? And if he can't, will Chinonso Obokoh, the Orange's other available listed center, be able to step up? Or will be it someone else, as Michael Burke suggests? And, whoever it may be, how will he be used?

Let's try to flesh out some of these, shall we?

DaJuan Coleman

Syracuse's exhibition contests have confirmed notions that the Orange will be trusting its ability behind the arc this season, shooting a combined 52 3-pointers between the two games. It also provided some insight of what we might be able to expect from Coleman.

Against Le Moyne, he was a little timid at first, which is expected since he hadn't played a game in two years, but came out hard in the second half, willing to use his size advantage in the lane to get to the basket. Coleman finished the game 7-for-9 with 15 points and seven rebounds in 23 minutes. Take it for what it's worth --  against Division II, exhibition opponents in his first game in two years -- but I do ask that you take it.

Rebounding will be a key part of Coleman's success this season. Since Boeheim will have his team heaving the ball from the arc so often, the Orange will need someone down low who is able to grab offensive boards when those shots miss -- and I'm sure this might be the reason why Boeheim is using this strategy.

Ignore the Le Moyne game and take a look at some of Coleman's career numbers, via Sports Reference.

According to the site, Coleman averages 4.0 rebounds per game. Not that many. But that is on 12.8 minutes per game for Syracuse. When you adjust these stats per 40 minutes, Coleman grabs 12.6 rebounds per game. And per 100 possessions, that number jumps to 19.8. (Note: the site doesn't distinguish offensive or defensive rebounds for these adjusted amounts. Only total rebounds per game). If these projections hold any water, Coleman could be rebounding force on the block. The offensive scheme this season should have the Jamesville-Dewitt grad with sparse defensive coverage and I know I would not want to be in the way of that 6-foot 9-inch, 268-pound frame.

Chinoso Obokoh

Arguably looming larger over this Syracuse roster this year: who will to step up when Coleman gets injured comes out of the game?

Chinoso Obokoh is in his third year on campus but his second seeing time in games. Last year he played in just 13 games for an average 6.8 minutes per game and recording 0.8 points per game and 1.7 rebounds per game. Like Coleman, Obokoh stands 6-feet, 9-inches but unlike Coleman, he tips the scale at just 215 pounds (per Not exactly the type of physical frame we're used to seeing in the front court.

So how does he fit in this year? I'm not sure. We don't know enough about him. We can only speculate on his abilities; like how he was the only other true center on the team last year behind Rakeem Christmas but Boeheim chose to go with 6-foot, 10-inch freshman forward Chris McCullough as Christmas' backup. Or how Syracuse added Paschal Chukwu from Providence, who conveniently can begin playing in Obokoh's senior year.

He did have a good game last year against Notre Dame when he came in to replace McCullough, helping the Orange hold on in that 65-60 win. But even after that, his playing time didn't spike or anything, getting in seven of the remaining 16 remaining games.

So this will be interesting to see. Maybe Obokoh has figured some things out and is able to grab some boards long enough for Coleman to get a water break. Or maybe he'll shock the world and be a machine down low.

Or maybe it'll be someone else...

Small ball

As TNIAAM's own Michael Burke wrote about (linked earlier in this piece), small might be the way Syracuse goes. It's a trend we're seeing across basketball and most notably by the NBA's reigning champions the Golden State Warriors.

For the uninformed, the term "small ball" refers to using a shorter, more athletic lineup with more players in the back court -- effectively forcing the defense to spread out, leaving room down low -- who can shoot and/or drive to the hoop without a clunky center getting in their way.

This means having guys like Tyler Roberson or Tyler Lydon playing "center" when they're true forwards.

The downside of this, specifically for the Orange, comes on defense. A big man down low plays a key role in the Orange's 2-3 zone and without one, who knows what will happen. But that doesn't mean it shouldn't be attempted.


If I'm a betting man -- which I'm not -- I would say to expect a big year out of Coleman. I think this scheme will play into him well; highlighting his ability to rebound while being less physical so as to reduce risk of injury. I think we'll see more of what we've seen from Obokoh: not much. And you can expect to see someone who is not a center playing center.

It certainly will be an interesting year for 'Cuse basketball. We'll see some strategies we've never seen before but hopefully not at the expense of a winning season.