Welcome to the first TNIAAM men's basketball roundtable of the season! Every Friday during Syracuse's 2015-16 season, members of the NunesMagician.com staff will come together to discuss a series of questions regarding the Orange. This week, we share our thoughts on some of the early season storylines surrounding SU.
Through two games, what has been the biggest surprise to you?
Andrew Pregler: Probably how poor the centers have been. St. Bonaventure and Lehigh are no slouches, but they aren't exactly mid majors projected to be able to stop bigger, stronger teams from playing that way. If teams find it that easy to shut down the post for the Orange, they'll be able to key in on the shooters and basically be ok ignoring whoever is down there, unless Boeheim drastically shifts strategy.
James Szuba: It's early, so I don't know if I put too much stock into what's currently happening. But I will say that I'm surprised with how many turnovers we have committed as a team. I'd like to see us reduce the amount of turnovers per game, especially with two fifth-year seniors in the starting backcourt.
John Cassillo: The fact that Michael Gbinije has still largely had to carry the load on offense. We knew he'd lead the team in scoring, but there was hope (still is) that guys like Malachi Richardson and Trevor Cooney would be able to pick up the slack when needed. So far, very much seems like this team goes on offense as Silent G goes.
Kevin Wall: Tyler Roberson's offense. It's way too early to be overly concerned, but Syracuse is going to need him to step up, and quickly. As teams start to overplay the Orange on the perimeter, he should get opportunities to score and he needs to be more of a threat.
Dan Lyons: We all had pretty high expectations for Malachi Richardson, and obviously we haven't gotten into the heart of the schedule, but he looks like he's making a quick adjustment to the college game. He might be our second best player by year's end, if he isn't already.
Michael Burke: Probably the play of Tyler Lydon. I didn't know what to expect from the freshman, but he's been the unsung hero in each of Syracuse's wins. Against Lehigh, he did a little of everything, finishing with 11 rebounds, three steals and two blocks. Against St. Bonaventure, he had 10 of his 13 points in the second half and hit the game-tying 3, after which the Orange never trailed.
Are you concerned with the lack of production from Dajuan Coleman? Or do you suspect that it's simply a result of rust that he'll be able to shed in the coming weeks?
AP: I'm not 100% sure. At this point, I'll defer to whatever Jim Boeheim thinks. He's usually pretty honest with when he thinks a kid is going to get better or legitimately has work to do. So far, it's been a little combination of coy and just wait for it, so I'll be willing to bet in some time, DC will put something together. I am worried about the Atlantis tournament.
JS: Definitely concerned. If he's not good to go, we're going to struggle this year. We have to rebound better and he's the key along with Roberson. Lydon has been solid, but if we can't rebound against St. Bonaventure how are we going to rebound against UNC and Virginia?
JC: A bit concerned, sure. But at the same time, Boeheim himself has stated that Coleman's comeback will be a slow process. I've never dealt with the injury challenges DC's dealing with, so I can only imagine how tepid he is to "do too much" and potentially go right back to being injured. Bringing him along slowly's the right call -- just need production out of other centers to help that process.
KW: Not concerned about the production yet. I think people who expected him to come out and play 30 minutes right away weren't being realistic. The upcoming schedule won't allow him to really play himself into form, but if he can be solid for 20 minutes a game over the next month it will help a lot.
DL: Yes. We probably shouldn't be too shocked that DC isn't ready to roll yet, but it's hard to know when/if he'll shake the rust off. He had some very serious injuries and hasn't played much over the last two years. If we don't start to get some production inside, we could be in trouble.
MB: Yeah, I think it's concerning. He should get better as the season progresses, but there's no hard evidence to suggest Coleman will be a reliable low post presence on offense at any point. And that's going to come back to haunt the Orange.
Leading up to the season, we heard a lot about Kaleb Joseph's improvement. He's looked better when he's played, but he's played just 18 total minutes. Would you like to see that change going forward, or is there simply too much guard depth on this year's team?
AP: I don't want to see anything change quite yet, because the Orange are the best when Cooney and Gbinije are on the floor together. Lydon is looking like a force and Richardson gives them the best chance to score, so Joseph is already looking at an uphill battle for minutes. That being said, there's almost no way there isn't a game Gbinije gets forced to the wings due to foul problems/being freshmen, so I'm not nearly as worried about Joseph on the floor as I thought I would be.
JS: I'd like to see Kaleb get more minutes. I think he's earned it. He looks vastly improved from a season ago and it looks like Boeheim has elected to go with Malachi at the forward and Gbinije at the point. We've struggled to rebound, so I'd be in favor of seeing Gbinije at the forward to help in that department, which would give Kaleb more time at point.
JC: Lydon and Richardson haven't played at the college level, so I think Boeheim's trying to make sure they get enough burn in these early games, before things get more difficult. That said, yeah, Joseph should probably play more now so that he's already in position to contribute more when those tougher games roll around. The minutes breakdown has been weird thus far, with closer games against "cupcakes." Hopefully SU can put away Elon early and let Joseph get some burn.
KW: We know he's going to have some games where he doesn't play a lot because Gbinije and Cooney are going to play major minutes. I do think he'll be used to help jump-start the offense in certain games, but his key to playing more is going to be improved defense.
DL: Yeah, as I said on the podcast this week, we can't afford to run the same five guys out there for 25+ minutes every night and expect to make it deep into March. And I thought Kaleb looked promising in limited minutes against Lehigh. I hope he breaks out of the doghouse and carves out a role here soon.
MB: I'd like to see him get more burn. I understand why Boeheim wants to give the bulk of the minutes to Cooney, who's especially valuable on the defensive end. But if Joseph really is that much improved, there's no reason for him to be playing nine minutes per game while Cooney essentially never sits, especially if the Orange struggle offensively.
Is it a good thing that Syracuse has had two real tests right off the bat? Or are you in line with Boeheim's thinking that it would be better to have a few easy games?
AP: I'm really not sure how to feel about this. Whenever I played NCAA Basketball, I always opted for a harder schedule to figure out what strategy would work best when in tight situations. On the other hand, easy games give everyone a chance to get some kind of confidence/juju/mojo. Really, this is a round about way of shrugging and saying that if the team wins 20+ games, I'll be fine with it and if we're a bubble team, I'll be upset by it.
JS: Well, I think from a teaching (coaching) standpoint it's better to give your kids a few learning examples between film sessions and more practice in the zone before you're tested. From a media perspective we want to see a more exciting game. Personally I'm all for early season tests. How great was the Maryland vs. Georgetown game or the Michigan State vs. Kansas game? College basketball needs more of this in the early season.
JC: Easy is best more often than not, especially when you're breaking in a young roster. You want to give kids confidence, not overwork them and allow for plenty to see the floor before the meat of the schedule. At the same time, this Syracuse team already knows how to turn it on and get past a tougher test much early than previous squads might have. It really depends on whether the opponents were tough or we just weren't good enough. If it's the latter, things are going to turn south quickly.
KW: With the upcoming OOC games, I say easier games would probably be better for getting the younger guys acclimated. However, getting tested early on can certainly help because they are going to have to play tough games at some point. It has been good to see how the younger players have responded under some pressure.
DL: I kind of like the first two games we've had. Lehigh and the Bonnies are no Duke, but they're not total walk-overs, and they've made our guys sweat a bit. Things torque up pretty quick when we head to the Bahamas, and then with Wisconsin and Georgetown. I'm glad our guys have gotten tested.
MB: I don't think it can hurt for Syracuse to get tested like this. Best case scenario: it helps some of the younger players when they're in other tight games against tougher competition down the road.
Through two games, are you more, less or equally optimistic about Syracuse than you were a week go?
AP: About the same. The issues with being a shooting team are obvious, the weakness inside is painful but Lydon and Richardson are as good as advertised, if not better and will be forged by fire through the early season.
JS: I predicted Syracuse to win 19 games between now and the end of the regular season. I'm sticking to my guns, but I will say Syracuse hasn't come close to playing its best basketball thus far.
JC: I'm not going to change my thinking just yet. This is a young team that plays young and will gain experience. They didn't dispatch the first two opponents with the ease I figured, but perhaps the tests help later. Like I said in the previous question: if it's opponents being better than we thought and some frosh jitters, it's a plus. If not, then yeah, maybe in a couple weeks I reconsider a 22-win prediction.
KW: Equally optimistic, but I am encouraged to see the small-ball line-up utilized. I like that SU is adapting to the team's strengths and it seems like this team will be entertaining to watch.
DL: Probably about the same if not a bit less, because Roberson's offensive funk and Dajuan's rust have me concerned. I'm cool with bombing threes, but we need to have some inside presence. Of course, it is only two games. There's plenty of basketball left before we should start to get really worried.
MB: My expectations for the Orange haven't changed much. As Dan said, for this team to overachieve this season, it needs to find someone it can rely on inside offensively. If it doesn't find that player, Syracuse is probably looking at another mediocre season.