Going into the 2015-16 season, some signs pointed to Kaleb Joseph making some sort of improvement for the Syracuse Orange. The sophomore point guard struggled in his first season as a starter. But some solid work in the offseason, and a promising preseason created partial optimism that perhaps he'd turned a corner to be a reliable contributor for SU.
Since? Quite the opposite.
He's hit double-digit minutes just four times all season, but just once (Montana State) over the last month and a half. He's record zero minutes in five of the last nine games, and just 17 combined in those other four. Joseph, the touted incoming freshman and one-time starter is now completely gone from Syracuse's plans.
It's not a Jim Boeheim thing -- he played very sparingly through Mike Hopkins's tenure too. And it's not an available minutes thing, because the Orange already have a short rotation and several plays average over 30 minutes. It has nothing to do with experience either, as freshman Frank Howard is averaging nearly three more minutes per game than him as a guard. So, what then?
It's shooting. The same thing that (as pointed out above) seemed improved in preseason has seemingly fallen off a cliff in the regular season. Granted, he hasn't really been give a chance to play consistent minutes, certainly affecting his shooting and confidence. But with Syracuse fighting for a postseason spot right now, can they really afford to give minutes to a player who's made just five field goals all season? And going back to last Spring, he's scored just 27 points in his last 24 games (at least half of those saw him logging decent minutes).
Perhaps that's the crux of it, really. Whether Boeheim or Hopkins is in charge, Joseph's primary issue (among what's seemed like a few all season) has been shooting the basketball. Without rebounds or free throws or steals or defense to lean on instead (see: various other Syracuse players that haven't been the best from the floor), it's understandable the tough balance coaches have to weigh between "doing right by a kid" and "doing right by a program." It seems the Orange coaching staff have chosen the latter for the time being. You can't really fault them for that, nor can you fault Kaleb for just not being able to put it all together given a combination of unrealistic expectations, recruiting being a crapshoot and his disjointed minutes allocations.
If he can eventually find his way out of the (trademark) Boeheim doghouse, it would be a welcome development for the Orange and his career. If not, we'll wish him the best of luck. You can never predict the future -- especially in college sports. Joseph, both two years ago and now, is just the latest in a long line of examples of that.