You may have heard that Syracuse Basketball is in a bit of a numbers crunch when it comes to scholarships. SU came into this season with one available spot in the 2016 class, and filled it with two players: Paschal Chukwu and much to Orange Nation's delight, Tyus Battle (to go alongside Matthew Moyer, who had already committed).
So now we're in this awkward position wondering who from the roster isn't going to be here in 2016, and it can feel ... well ... a little dirty.
And this isn't the first time we've been here. Despite not actually landing Thomas Bryant, Orange fans were led to believe the center was going to be part of the equation for the 2015 class, and spent a lot of time last year debating who of Chris McCullough, Ron Patterson or B.J. Johnson would be leaving the team. Answer: all three!
So what's the deal here? Is Boeheim forcing players out to replace them with better guys - something Tom Crean has been accused of at Indiana?
Here are two big things to keep in mind.
1. Players leave early every year
That's not hyperbole. A player has left Syracuse early every year since 2005. That's 11 consecutive seasons of guys leaving early. Sometimes it's to the NBA. Sometimes it's by transfer. Sometimes it's just because it's time to move on. Here is a list:
2005 - Billy Edelin
2006 - Louie McCroskey, Dayshawn Wright
2007 - Mike Jones, Josh Wright
2008 - Donte Greene
2009 - Jonny Flynn, Eric Devendorf, Paul Harris, Sean Williams, Devin Brennan-McBride
2010 - Wes Johnson
2011 - DaShonte Riley
2012 - Dion Waiters, Fab Melo (updated thanks to NYSCuse)
2013 - Michael Carter-Williams
2014 - Tyler Ennis, Jerami Grant
2015 - BJ Johnson, Ron Patterson, Chris McCullough
If history teaches us anything, it's that someone is leaving early. Tyler Roberson and Malachi Richardson are probably the top candidates to bolt to the NBA - though it would be somewhat surprising as of right now. Chinoso Obokoh and Kaleb Joseph are possible transfer candidates - probably more for Obokoh, but if Joseph loses playing time this year, who knows? And speaking of who knows ... DaJuan Coleman's health is a major concern, to the point he could decide his career is over, or he could decide it's time to make a run at playing professionally overseas before he gets hurt again.
The point is, someone is almost certainly going to leave, one way or another, just like every year for the past 11 seasons. Which leads us to ...
2. You have to over-recruit when you only have 10 scholarships
Think back to a simpler time, when Syracuse had a full allotment of basketball scholarships. As we just discussed, players left early all the time, but the Orange never seemed to over-recruit to fill their place.
That's because they had a lot more roster flexibility.
When you have 13 scholarships, and someone leaves early, you can try to fill the spot, but odds are none of the top targets are available by that point. So typically, a team in that position rolls the scholarship into the next recruiting class, and rides it out with 11 or 12 scholarship players for a year.
This is how senior walk-ons get rewarded with a scholarship many years. They have one just sitting there not being used, so you may as well. It happens all the time.
As we all know, most teams don't even go 10-deep, let alone 11, 12, or 13, so the lack of roster depth doesn't have any immediate impact on the team, and they fill in the gap later down the line.
Now, with the penalties, and facing a maximum of 10 scholarship players on the roster, SU does not have that flexibility to waste scholarships. If you recruit to fill 10 scholarships, and one or two players leave, you're left with eight or nine scholarship players. Even in Jim Boeheim's limited rotations, that means pretty much every player on the roster has to be ready to contribute.
Not only is that unrealistic, it also gives no room for injuries, suspensions, or anything else that can happen to a basketball team over the course of the year. Essentially, you can barely field a team with that few players.
That leaves the Orange coaching staff in the position it's in now: needing to play the smart numbers game, knowing that odds are almost certain that one player will leave the program early next year, and they will need to fill the spot.
They can't afford to be sentimental. They have to be smart. And that involves recruiting 11 guys for 10 spots.
Unless we see a reduction in the scholarship limitations, expect this to be the new normal for the next few years, as SU tries to remain a top team in the face of the NCAA sanctions.