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Syracuse men’s basketball: roster construction in today’s NCAA landscape

Coaches and programs need to be willing to make hard choices

NCAA Basketball: Syracuse Orange Tip Off Rich Barnes-USA TODAY Sports

The Syracuse Orange men’s basketball roster resides in a very incomplete state for the 23-24 season. It’s not usually like this as May approaches, but for programs and fans it will become the new normal.

As athletes gain the power to transfer and NIL adds another reason to transfer, coaches need to be able to react and respond quickly when they get news like Adrian Autry received last week when Jesse Edwards entered the portal. We saw that Autry and his staff moved to connect themselves with three transfer centers as Edwards narrowed his new schools down.

Before I go further, what I’m going to say doesn’t excuse Syracuse if they were late to figure out the NIL options for an international athletes. Even if you assumed Jesse would turn pro and leave there are plenty of other international athletes to warrant having that part figured out. We don’t really know the truth but there’s enough discussion about things presented to Edwards late that it is a concern. Hopefully the structure is there now for future international athletes.

Now, let’s get back on topic. Edwards chose WVU over Kansas and Gonzaga and look if he wants a fresh start, fine. However, saying it’s not about NIL while not even visiting two perennial top 10 programs is certainly an interesting way to go about things.

A number of Syracuse fans are of the belief that the Orange “can’t compete with WVU’s financial offer”, but do you stop and think of the big picture?

Let’s look at a hypothetical scenario:

Suppose Adrian Autry is given a pot of $2m to work with for his 13 scholarship players. Now suppose he’s got things slotted so that he’s willing to go as high as 500k on one player. What does he do if a player comes to him and says another school is offering 800k? Does he scrap his plan knowing that it could cost him 3-4 other players because the portal is open for another month?

What if Judah Mintz has indicated he’s likely to return next year? Does Autry take money he’s got planned for Mintz to match an offer to Edwards? Does he let Edwards walk in order to keep the space open for Mintz?

It’s like navigating a salary cap, except no one knows what that cap is for next season, or the seasons beyond. Obviously if you want the most competitive team in 23-24 you probably think pay Jesse/Judah/JJ and figure it out, but those three aren’t winning anything on their own.

Again I’m not excusing Syracuse if they came in too late with a NIL plan. Let me clear this should have been done earlier because Jesse isn’t the first, and won’t be the last outstanding international athlete. I’m pointing out that building a roster in the modern NCAA is going to mean tough choices like this are going to be more frequent.

I realize that I might as well be pouring a solo cup on a five-alarm fire with how some of you will respond, but I think we need to let things continue to unfold before we decide the program and athletic department are finished.

Syracuse isn’t going to be the Mets or Dodgers and spend to win (in any sport). The organization has to be run with a smarter approach based upon spending in the right spots. This goes for facilities, coaching/support staff allocation, and NIL. Now if you want to say you’re concerned about the future because that smart allocation of resources hasn’t been apparent, then I’m going to nod my head and agree with you.

This is why John Wildhack and his senior staff get those big salaries and the pressure now turns to them to get the right structure in place.....and fast.