Let's say Andrew White III chooses to play for the Syracuse Orange next season.
That gives Syracuse the following:
- Two grad transfer guards who both averaged double-digit scoring last season (White & John Gillon)
- A freshman point guard in the mold of Tyler Ennis et al. (Tyus Battle)
- A returning small forward likely to score double-digits and go pro following the season (Tyler Lydon)
- A fourth-year power forward good for 8 points and 8 rebounds a game last year (Tyler Roberson)
- Two freshman forwards with the potential to contribute (Taurean Thompson, Matthew Moyer)
- A 7'2" center constructed in a lab to be the center of a 2-3 zone (Paschal Chukwu)
- A 6'9" fifth-year big man with a chip on his shoulder, out to prove he's worth an NBA shot (DaJuan Coleman)
This is a Syracuse lineup unlike anything we've seen in a very long time. It's deep. It provides at least two viable options at every position at all times. It's loaded with both veteran and young talent. It features multiple scoring threats, multiple rebounders, and a collection of guys seemingly built for the 2-3 zone.
It's almost as if Jim Boeheim, ever the curmudgeon set in his ways, has finally cracked the code on what it means to build a successful team in modern college basketball. Even if White doesn't come to Syracuse, its still a loaded roster. Even if Thompson or Moyer don't pan out this year, SU is covered. Even if Coleman never becomes what we hoped, we've got another option. Even if Battle pulls a Kaleb Joseph, Frank Howard and the others are right there ready to take his place.
In recent years, Boeheim has liked to include the role of the Sixth Starter. This is a team that could have a Seventh Starter.
The fact that Syracuse could have a team this talented and this deep in an age when most good players are gone by the time sophomore year is over, well, its something that needs to be appreciated.
Especially considering the guy in charge and what we know about him.
This is Jim Boeheim we're talking about. He's as old school and set in his ways as anyone in charge of a major college basketball program. He's the guy who still tries to tell surefire draft picks they should stay instead of going pro. He's the guy who once very rarely accepted transfers and said the grad transfer rule has "unintended consequences." He found something he likes in the 2-3 zone and refused to change it no matter what anyone says. He was against playing in the Carrier Dome when it was built. He was against leaving the Big East for the ACC. He's always been against change in whatever form it takes because he likes what he likes and that's all there is to it.
That's what makes the potential 2016-2017 lineup so impressive. Of course, you can't exactly say that Boeheim planned it all out this way. It was up to the freshman and the transfers to come here and they all very well could have said no. But as his career winds down, potentially as soon as next year, Boeheim seems to have finally set aside his own preconceived notions about the way college basketball players should be and create a team based around the way the sport actually is.
Jimmy B might actually be more adaptable than we think.
He's also spent the better part of the last decade watching some of the most talented players to ever wear an SU uniform leave after one or two seasons. Gone are the days when a guy like Lawrence Moten or John Wallace stay at Syracuse for four years. Now, its a shock when a player of that caliber lasts more than one. Malachi Richardson was the latest but Chris McCullough, Tyler Ennis, and Michael Carter-Williams all prove to be the rule, not the exception.
Not to say SU hasn't also developed great players who stayed for four years. Trevor Cooney, Rakeem Christmas, Brandon Triche, C.J. Fair and others have proven that.
The problem, however, has been trying to time it right so Syracuse is balanced across the board. Too often, SU comes into a season with a scary lack of depth because recruiting didn't anticipate someone leaving early or a season-ending injury. Big recruiting classes have sounded great on paper but often tend to split on results (i.e. The 2013 class). Too often, it feels like Syracuse's roster is incomplete, lacking another scorer or a dependable backup at a key position. It tends to make us wonder why we're unable to put together the same kind of rosters that Kentucky and Duke can.
Certainly, Boeheim & Co. have been able to find results even with these issues (See: Final Four, 2016), but there always seems to be some kind of "what could have been" feeling about each individualal season's roster.
Not so much in 2016-2017, at least on paper. While the national folks haven't shown too much love just yet, its hard not to look at what Boeheim has compiled and think it is the most complete-looking roster he's had in years. Maybe a decade? And this is a guy who has been to two Final Fours in that time, mind you.
Every complaint fans usually have about SU's roster is appeased. Multiple scoring threats? Check. Roster depth? Check. Legitimate rebounders? Check. Multiple big men capable of disrupting offenses from the middle of the 2-3 zone? Check. Veteran leadership? Check.
Maybe Boeheim didn't plan this, but he opened the door for it to happen. That alone feels like a monumental shift for the 41-year head coach, often trotted out as an example of The Old Guard. Perhaps its the influence of guys like Adrian Autry and Mike Hopkins. Maybe its Boeheim sensing his "mortality" as a head coach and setting aside personal pride in order to get one more title to his name. Maybe its just dumb luck and the stars aligning.
Whatever it is, the 2016-2017 Syracuse basketball team looks and feels like something we haven't seen in a while for Syracuse basketball.