The 2015-2016 college basketball season officially concluded last night with the Villanova Wildcats' thrilling victory over the North Carolina Tar Heels, but of course we're already starting to think about next year.
While the Syracuse Orange shocked everyone and made it to the Final Four, next year's squad is expected to be even better, at least talent-wise. We lose Michael Gbinije and Trevor Cooney. We may lose Malachi Richardson. Everyone else is coming back (sans Kaleb Joseph) and we've got a stellar recruiting class coming in with room to add. Not to mention Paschal Chukwu will be eligible.
Let's see what the prognosticators are thinking when it comes to where SU stands headed into 2016-2017. Turns out...they're all thinking good things.
SB Nation: 15th
Forget the talk about whether or not they even deserved to be in the NCAA Tournament, Syracuse was always on the path of taking a step up in 2016-17. There's no guarantee that they'll make it back to the season's final weekend, but if Jim Boeheim gets both Malachi Richardson and Tyler Lydon back, he'll have a team that is unlikely to be sweating it out on Selection Sunday again.
Bleacher Report: 22nd
The potential of Malachi Richardson and Tyler Lydon was on display in the NCAA tournament, and that's a nice one-two punch to build a team around. Head coach Jim Boeheim also returns starting forward Tyler Roberson, and the Orange add another scoring wing in Tyus Battle.
Sporting News: 12th
Syracuse’s run to the Final Four showed how Malachi Richardson and Tyler Lydon, just freshmen this season, are capable of making an impact for the Orange. Of course, NBA folks were watching, too, so either budding superstar could decide to make the jump to the league. If they don’t, though, that’s a great thing for Syracuse’s 2016-17 prospects. Tyler Roberson is an established beast on the boards, and guard Frank Howard showed flashes of being able to handle a larger role next year. Incoming recruit Tyus Battle, a 6-6 shooting guard, is going to be fun to watch for Orange fans.
The Big Lead: 10th
Lose two 5th year senior starters (Gbinije and Cooney) but if everyone returns – not a given – the Orange will be a Final 4 contender. Malachi Richardson blew up during the NCAA Tournament and could leave early for the NBA. If he stays, they’ll be a Top 15 team all season. What’s not to love about emerging freshman Tyler Lydon (it feels like he’ll become a star sooner than later)? And don’t forget bouncy junior Tyler Roberson. DaJuan Coleman will be a 5th year senior. The backcourt is thin, but Tyus Battle, a Top 25 recruit, will immediately help.
Yahoo! Sports: 14th
Syracuse's potential next season hinges on the draft decisions of promising but streaky freshmen Richardson and Lydon. Richardson, a 6-foot-6 wing, turned aside questions about his plans for next year after Saturday's Final Four loss to North Carolina. Lydon insisted he'll be back, but his decision is one that might require further reflection. Scouts are intrigued enough with his potential as a stretch forward that he would undoubtedly be drafted this June, yet a year of not having to man the middle of Syracuse's zone and being able to play his natural position could do wonders for his stock. If Lydon returns, look for him to be the centerpiece of a frontcourt that would also include Roberson and the center duo of Coleman and Chukwu, a 7-foot-2 Providence transfer. Howard is the most likely option to replace Gbinije at point guard with Richardson alongside him at shooting guard if he is back or Battle starting right away otherwise.
NBA Sports: 17th
Richardson and Lydon are perfect for the style that Jim Boeheim wants to play, as is Tyus Battle. The question is whether or not they’re both going to be there next season.
Campus Insiders: 14th
There’s no question losing Michael Gbinije and Trevor Cooney hurts. It hurts a lot. It will hurt even more if Malachi Richardson heads to the NBA. But with a good recruiting class coming in and Tyler Roberson and Tyler Lydon ready to take on bigger roles, the Orange will still be strong.
Syracuse lost 14 games this season. It also went to the Final Four. It was a weird 2015-16 across the board, but the freshmen who helped fuel the Orange's late-season explosion -- Tyler Lydon and Malachi Richardson, namely -- look likely to get this program back into its top-25 comfort zone. Seniors Trevor Cooney and Michael Gbinije are gone, sure, but assuming Richardson doesn't jump to the draft (and he was noncommital on the topic Saturday night) Jim Boeheim's blend of returners and newcomers (from freshmen Tyus Battle and Matthew Moyer to former Providence center Paschal Chukwu) won't be sweating it out again on Selection Sunday.