Yesterday's news that both forward B.J. Johnson and guard Ron Patterson will transfer from Syracuse leaves one question begging to be answered: How many scholarships will the Orange have available in the coming years?
As part of the NCAA's sanctions against the school, Syracuse will lose 12 scholarships over a four-year period. SU can begin its punishment in the 2016-17 season "if the school has already executed scholarship offers for the 2015-16 season," the NCAA's March 6 report reads. And since Syracuse has already signed four recruits from the 2015 class, the scholarship reduction will thus begin in 2016-17. From the 2016-17 season through the 2019-20 season, Syracuse will be permitted only 10 scholarship players per year.
But let's first look at the 2015-16 team. Since the penalties won't begin until the following season, Syracuse will be able to carry 13 scholarship players. As of right now, the Orange have 11 scholarship players scheduled to be on the roster: Trevor Cooney, Michael Gbinije, Chris McCullough, Kaleb Joseph, Tyler Roberson, DaJuan Coleman, Chinonso Obokoh, Malachi Richardson, Moustapha Diagne, Tyler Lydon, and Frank Howard.
That means that, in theory, Syracuse should have room for coveted 2015 recruit Thomas Bryant, whom SU has been a frontrunner to sign. We can't know for sure why Johnson and Patterson transferred, but if Boeheim pushed them out, the logical explanation is that he did so to make room for Bryant. Stay tuned.
Next, let's examine what Syracuse's scholarship situation will look like during the four-year punishment window, starting with the 2016-17 season.
Without Johnson and Patterson, only 10 players are expected to be on scholarship in 2016-17: McCullough, Joseph, Roberson, Coleman, Obokoh, Richardson, Diagne, Lydon, Howard, and 2016 recruit Matthew Moyer.
That keeps Syracuse within its 10-player limit, but only if Bryant doesn't sign. If SU does get Bryant, someone else would have to leave prior to the 2016-17 season. That shouldn't be too difficult, as it's likely that McCullough will enter the 2016 NBA Draft following next season. It's also possible that Richardson, the No. 19 recruit in the 2015 class, will join McCullough in entering the NBA Draft. That would put Syracuse at nine scholarship players, which would leave room for five-star 2016 recruit Tyus Battle.
If we cross McCullough off the list, only six players are expected to be on scholarship for the 2017-18 season: Joseph, Richardson, Diagne, Lydon, Howard, and Moyer. Assuming the Orange don't get Bryant or Battle, that would leave them with four open scholarship spots for the 2017 recruiting class. If they sign both Bryant and Battle, only two scholarship spots would remain.
As I noted when I did my original scholarship breakdown following the NCAA sanctions announcement, this is where a significant amount of speculation must come into play.
Right now, five players are expected to be on scholarship during the 2018-19 season: Richardson, Diagne, Lydon, Howard, and Moyer. There will certainly be other players on scholarship, but it's impossible to know how many will come from the 2018 class. That depends, of course, on whether SU gets Bryant and/or Battle and on how many scholarships the Orange use on recruits from the 2017 class. For example, if Syracuse is able to reel in both Bryant and Battle but doesn't sign any players from the 2017 class, that would leave the program with three scholarship spots. That also assumes, however, that Richardson nor any other player will leave early.
Once more, we have to speculate here. Only Moyer is scheduled to be on scholarship for the 2019-20 season. But it's also possible that a player from the 2015 recruiting class -- perhaps Diagne -- redshirts at some point and has a year of eligibility left come the 2019-20 season. Either way, it's pretty difficult at this point to gauge just how many scholarships Syracuse will have available to use on players in the 2019 recruiting class. We'll just have to see how it plays out.
If you'd like to see it visually, here's a tabular form of SU's scholarship situation from 2016-17 through 2019-20:
|Chris McCullough||Chris McCullough||Malachi Richardson||Matthew Moyer|
|Kaleb Joseph||Kaleb Joseph||Moustapha Diagne|
|Tyler Roberson||Malachi Richardson||Tyler Lydon|
|DaJuan Coleman||Moustapha Diagne||Franklin Howard|
|Chinonso Obokoh||Tyler Lydon||Matthew Moyer|
|Malachi Richardson||Franklin Howard|
|Moustapha Diagne||Matthew Moyer|