After losing three of their last four, the Syracuse Orange (6-3) halted its recent skid with a 99-77 drubbing of the Boston University Terriers (4-6) on Saturday. While the win was a much-needed boost for a Syracuse team that has looked lost in recent weeks, it also seemingly led to more questions than answers.
Even the “dumb ones.”
While Boeheim eviscerated a reporter for questioning his playing-time decisions (although in Boeheim’s defense, he did explain his reasoning in his opening remarks) the uncertainty surrounding Syracuse’s minutes distribution remains.
Tyler Lydon and Andrew White III have remained fixtures in the starting lineup throughout the season, with both averaging more than 30 minutes a game, respectively. But, that has been about the only constant so far.
Tyus Battle went from sixth-man to averaging 33 minutes a game in SU’s last three contests. Tyler Roberson went from starter to returning to Boeheim’s doghouse. One game after shooting 0-for-9 from the field, starting point guard Frank Howard received fewer minutes than John Gillon. And one game after DaJuan Coleman put up his best performance in recent memory – finishing with 10 points, 16 rebounds and two blocks – the big man was on the court for just nine minutes against BU.
So, how exactly should Boeheim distribute playing-time for the rest of the season? Well, let’s ask the TNIAAM staff and find out.
Let me start by saying that Tyler Lydon and Andrew White are going to need to be playing 35+ minutes a game. It's clear that these two guys are the best offensive threats for the Orange and they need to get the bulk of the minutes. Next in line for minutes should be Howard and Battle. Those guys can help break down the defense off the dribble and create openings.
After those four, I'm going to take the match-up approach with the rest of the minutes. We've seen a lot of ups and downs from the rest of the rotation, but each of these guys can fill a need for Syracuse based upon the opponent. Coleman and Roberson are going to have to be there when facing an imposing front-court. Thompson showed what he could do against a zone defense. Gillon can provide an offensive spark and Chukwu has the ability to anchor a press and provide rim protection in the zone. I think these recent lineup fluctuations are going to continue the rest of the way.
While I think this could be used as a general guideline, I don't think there should be specific minute allocation for each player. There are too many variables to account for in basketball to specifically say "player x should play x amount of minutes." With that said, here is a minutes breakdown by player that I think could be used as a general guideline, give or take five minutes at each position based on who is playing well on any given night.
PG: Frank Howard- 25 mins, John Gillon- 15 mins
SG: Tyus Battle- 25 mins, Andrew White- 15 mins
SF: Andrew White- 20 mins, Tyler Lydon- 20 mins
PF: Tyler Roberson- 25 mins, Taurean Thompson- 10 mins, Tyler Lydon- 5 mins
C: DaJuan Coleman- 25 mins, Paschal Chukwu 10 mins, Tyler Lydon- 5 mins
Similar to both Kevin’s and James’ breakdowns, I also believe both White and Lydon are going to need to play a heavy dose of minutes if the Orange are to be successful. Due to the depth chart as it is, Syracuse’s leading scorers will need to play a minimum of 35 minutes a game if the Orange are to succeed. After a strong start to the season, Howard has tailed off a bit as of late. Regardless, he is still Syracuse’s most reliable point guard and should see 25-30 minutes a game. Gillon should see around 20 minutes per game, but if Howard continues to struggle offensively, I think that should increase to 25, or even 30.
Battle is going through some freshman struggles, but has shown flashes of what he could accomplish and should see a heavy workload as well, roughly 30 minutes. Even with the logjam in the frontcourt, I believe Thompson, due to his offensive ability, deserves see his minutes increase to roughly 20 minutes a game, as he feels more comfortable defensively playing in the 2-3 zone. Coleman should also see a similar amount, at 25 minutes per game, with the two seeing their playing time fluctuate based on the matchup, with Coleman seeing the heavier workload when facing a bigger frontcourt. That leaves 10 minutes for Roberson, who could push for a bigger workload if he can quit making the same mental mistakes and poor decisions he made last season.
Sorry Paschal, no need to go beyond eight players right now.
Coach Jim Boeheim has a unique situation this season as he doesn’t have to only play six-to-seven players in a game. This team has the talent to go nine deep, but Boeheim isn’t afraid to play as few players as possible as long as his team comes out with a victory. The Orange are trying to capture another final four appearance, and as it looks right now, Boeheim has no time for players not giving 100 percent.
Frank Howard- 24 minutes
Tyus Battle- 24 minutes
Andrew White III- 30 minutes
Tyler Lydon- 31 minutes
DaJuan Colemen- 16 minutes
John Gillon- 22 minutes
Taurean Thompson- 16 minutes
Tyler Roberson- 13 minutes
Paschal Chukwu- 14 minutes
By this point in the season, we usually have a pretty solid grasp of who the seven or eight guys in the rotation will be, and which players can be relied on in crunch time. 2016-17 doesn’t appear to be your normal season, however.
To start things off, there are a few guys that we know are going to get run. Tyler Lydon, while cold to start the year, is the most talented player on the team, and a guy that Boeheim trusts. He’s going to play over 30 minutes per game, and in all likelihood, will rarely leave the floor in close games. Andrew White III is the most proven scorer Syracuse has, and will likely play similar minutes.
After those two, however, there is a lot of gray. Tyus Battle has come on a bit as of late, and as a freshman, should continue to improve. Frank Howard is generally a steady presence, but he and John Gillon seem to trade off big games. They are different enough players, that there may be a chance that Boeheim becomes more match-up reliant on a game-to-game basis. DaJuan Coleman had some huge games in Syracuse’s losses, but there are teams that he will struggle to stay on the floor for, while Taurean Thompson may be too good to keep out, but is still young and learning the system.
If there is an odd-man out, it looks like it will be Paschal Chukwu at this point, with Thompson and Lydon playing more together in the front court. The ever-enigmatic Tyler Roberson continues to be the hardest piece to pin down. We have seen what he can do (usually against Duke), but he may be farther in the dog house than any player in recent memory, even as a senior.
That is all to say that a month in here, we still don’t really know what this team looks like, as the rotations have changed wildly from game-to-game. Luckily, Syracuse has a Hall of Famer on the bench, but the rotations and general identity of this team is still a huge work in progress.
I’ll start by saying that I’ve missed these roundtables, and I’m glad to be back at TNIAAM. First and foremost, I agree with Kevin in the sense that Tyler Lydon and Andrew White should be around 35-40 minutes a game. A lot of the other positions - in my opinion - becomes who has the hot hand. It’s hard to say from game to game because of the inconsistency across the board.
My starters would remain what they’ve been: Howard, Battle, White, Lydon and Coleman. There’s nothing wrong with that.
As for minutes:
PG: Howard 23, Gillon 17.
SG: Battle 27, White 13.
SF: White 26, Lydon 14.
PF: Roberson 17, Thompson 10, Lydon 13.
C: Coleman 17, Thompson 13, Lydon 10.
I will say this — minutes are difficult to predict. When predicting, it’s nearly impossible to simulate foul trouble, who’s shooting poorly, early turnovers or someone just having an off night. I still believe Roberson can help this team. Paschal Chukwu just isn’t cutting it for me, and would be used in emergency situations only until he proves he deserves to play. I believe in Thompson’s game a lot, especially offensively. Any given night Battle could play 35 minutes — depending on how well he’s playing and scoring. Lydon and Roberson, as I said above, deserve anywhere from 35-40 minutes a night come ACC play. With the point guards, it truly comes down to the hot hand.
What is YOUR ideal playing-time breakdown? Let us know by leaving a comment below.