Have you ever been on a team with mostly new players trying to come together? It’s tough, right?
Now remember a time where you were on a team that was built with players who were familiar with each other’s tendency—that team experienced more success, more often than not.
The first scenario sounds pretty familiar to what the Syracuse Orange showcased this season: a team full of individuals that weren’t used to each other’s talents. While this year’s team had a plethora of experience in age, the reality was that the impact players were mostly freshmen or transfer players.
Tyler Lydon was the glue that held things together, but the other four starters by year’s-end were in their first season of playing under coach Jim Boeheim. No matter how much talent is on the floor, playing together as a team is a whole new story.
The Orange struggled at times to get any motion going on the offensive end of the court, and that could be in large part to the player’s unfamiliarity with each other. We saw improvements throughout the year, but just imagine if these guys had the chemistry of the prior season’s team.
The 2015-2016 Syracuse Orange were built on chemistry. Michael Gbinije and Trevor Cooney were the backbone to the Syracuse offense, and their experience as graduate students surely helped. Their familiarity with each other helped the Orange work through stagnant times on offense.
Tyler Roberson and DaJuan Coleman, the core of the Orange defense, were upperclassmen as well. The two big-men knew the ins-and-outs to Boeheim’s 2-3 zone, unlike this year’s team with Taurean Thompson and Andrew White III teaming up with Tyler Lydon down low.
Then came the freshmen. Tyler Lydon and Malachi Richardson looked like freshmen to begin the season, but by the end of the year the two new guys were more than helping Syracuse make a run to the Final Four.
So, you may be asking where I’m going with this. By no means am I comparing next year’s team to the most recent Final Four team, but maybe we can take a look at the similarities and focus on some positives for what’s to come.
Next year’s team won’t have much upperclassmen talent, but Boeheim will be looking for his sophomore’s in Tyus Battle and Taurean Thompson to act like they have that kind of experience.
Frank Howard will be running the show at point guard as the lessons he learned in his first two seasons will hopefully lead to it all coming together. Matthew Moyer is coming off his redshirt season, and if he puts the work in this off season he may be able to play the sidekick role Battle needs on the wing.
Paschal Chukwu is coming off of a “lost” season, but he along with the names mentioned above have experienced time on the court together. These five returning players aren’t the “stars” the 2015-2016 team had, but chemistry means everything, and this team will have the experience of playing with each other—whether that be in games or practice.
Next year’s squad will also have impact freshmen in Oshae Brissett, Howard Washington, and Bourama Sidibe. These guys may not have the impact Richardson and Lydon had in their freshmen seasons, but if they find a way to contribute on both ends of the floor they will be earning more playing time as the season goes by.
There are still more recruits who may sign and transfer players who may find their way over to the Carrier Dome, so this roster of returners and “newbies” may expand. Don’t expect this team to look like the 2015-2016 team, but having high chemistry doesn’t a hurt a team looking for positives.