The Syracuse Orange (6-3) got back on track after Saturday’s victory over Boston University, 99-77. The Orange came into the matinee off of a loss to former Big East foe Connecticut.
Coleman, a fifth-year senior, had his best three-game stretch of his career against Wisconsin, North Florida and UConn. He scored 12, 15 and 10 points, respectively, while also grabbing 25 total rebounds.
While Coleman surged, Syracuse went 1-2 and Tyler Lydon struggled.
During Coleman’s successful run, head coach Jim Boeheim had no option but to play the 6-foot-9 local center, meaning Tyler Lydon played the 3 or 4 - two positions he’s not as effective at offensively, according to Boeheim.
“I’m willing to play wherever my team needs,” Tyler Lydon said last week after SU’s loss to UConn. “It doesn’t matter to me and I don’t have a preference. Wherever I can help us is where I wanna be.”
Coleman had a career-high 16 rebounds against the Huskies that game, and it looked as if he was finally starting to play like the five-star prospect Syracuse had signed five years ago - a legitimate scoring threat and a beast on the glass.
“I just know this is my last season here and I want it to be special,” Coleman said on his recent hot streak. “I’m confident, but I’m always confident. Nothing has changed, but it does feel like everything’s coming together.”
In those three games in which Coleman thrived, Lydon struggled. He scored nine points, six and then seven against the same three teams in which Coleman had double-figures. He went 3-for-14 from 3-point range and was 7-for-25 from the field.
It’s hard to make the argument that a team struggles because one player had the best three-game stretch of his collegiate career, but that may be the case in Syracuse’s instance.
There was no way Jim Boeheim could’ve pulled Coleman at any point in those three games, especially with little production coming elsewhere.
Lydon looks more comfortable at the 5 on offense. A 6-foot-9, athletic forward playing the 5 is a mismatch for most of Syracuse’s opponents. When teams play SU man-to-man, Lydon has the advantage over Coleman offensively with his ability to do more. He can shoot from deep, drive past his defender and is a better passer.
Take Saturday’s game for example: Syracuse was being zoned by the Terriers, and Lydon had 10 points. Nothing to write home about, but it could be step in the right direction. Lydon looked extremely comfortable at the high-post. More importantly, Taurean Thompson received extended minutes and scored a career-high 22 points on 10-of-13 shooting.
Why is that important?
Thompson can play the 4 or 5. Coleman can only play the 5. If Thompson can produce at the rate he did on Saturday - or be a legitimate threat on the offensive end - and with Lydon feeling more comfortable as a stretch-4 or 5, the Orange may have found its best offensive lineup.
With Coleman in the lineup, Syracuse is forced to keep an offensive threat (Thompson) on the bench, as well as Lydon playing in a less prominent offensive role for his game.
With Thompson in the lineup, Syracuse can have Lydon play at the 5 offensively, while also having a stretch-4 in Thompson contribute, as well. That lineup would also include Andrew White, Tyus Battle and either point guard - whoever has the hot hand.
After everything Coleman has been through - injuries, surgeries, lack of minutes, etc., it’s hard to say Syracuse is better when he’s not at his best. But that may just be the case.