After missing the Syracuse Orange's five of the last six games it was announced Monday night a left-leg injury would keep sophomore center Dajuan Coleman out for the remainder of the season. The news wasn't earth shattering like other breaking news stories that have popped-up the past few seasons, but it sure was disheartening.
"This is a tremendous disappointment, especially considering the amount of hard work DaJuan has been putting in with our basketball team," said Syracuse coach Jim Boeheim. "We will certainly miss his contributions."
Coleman's contributions were a meager 13 minutes, four points and four rebounds per game, however, he was a part of the starting lineup, which allowed springy sophomore forward Jerami Grant to come of the bench and snag some early rest.
Despite the new rotation and playing minutes for Grant because of Coleman's absence, the forward's numbers of 12 points (on 47-percent shooting) and 6.5 rebounds per game hasn't dipped at all. However, Grant is playing about 11 more minutes per game, which is a huge jump when you consider he was on the floor for about 25 minutes per game when Coleman was in the lineup.
Nearly all the extra playing minutes have been placed on Grant's shoulders, as both centers, junior Rakeem Christmas and senior Baye Moussa Keita, are playing the same amount of minutes they were. Their production is basically the same as well.
Now, there's no telling what this will mean in the long run. In the past, Boeheim has basically told the media that these kids are 20-something-years old (Grant actually turns 20 in March) and should be able to play 40 minutes a game if asked.
The issue becomes when there's back-to-back games, like their would be in Greensboro, NC during the Atlantic Coast Conference Tournament. Also, there's concern when Grant, Christmas and Keita get into foul trouble how will things play out?
The obvious answer is to give freshman forward Tyler Roberson more minutes, but a few really bad things happen if that becomes an option: 1) Roberson maybe tossed into a situation he is not ready for (remember Boeheim's hesitation to play him against Miami's zone defense earlier in the season?); and 2) the Orange's 2-3 zone defense suffers. The latter is the biggest issue of them all because defense will be the difference on whether or not SU makes another deep run into the NCAA Tournament.
The overall conclusion, which was the main point during a TNIAAM roundtable a week ago, is there's less room for error for the Orange with Coleman out. Syracuse players will need to be play smarter on defense to avoid foul trouble and slow starts to game become tougher to overcome because there will be less rest for some players during the game.
(If you're thinking long term, like what if Coleman can never play again? Well, do not fear too much, as next season Christmas will return, while incoming freshmen forward Chris McCullough, a five-star recruit, could be ready to step into a starting role. Oh, and this year's redshirt center Chinonso Obokoh will be available off the bench. However, lets hope it doesn't come to that.)
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