Syracuse men's basketball enters 2016-17 with depth and talent despite roster turnover

Led by Tyler Lydon, Andrew White III, Orange opens season ranked No. 19 in preseason AP poll

Despite losing its top three scorers from a team that made a surprising run to the Final Four, the Syracuse Orange could be one of the deepest and most talented squads in the ACC this season.

Syracuse was on the NCAA Tournament bubble a season ago, before rattling off four straight wins to become the first No. 10 seed to advance to the Final Four. But the starting backcourt of Trevor Cooney and Michael Gbinije was lost to graduation at the end of last year, while freshman forward Malachi Richardson was a first-round NBA draft choice. The trio started all 37 games the Orange played in 2015-16 and combined to average 43.8 points per contest.

Photo: Xiang Wei
Syracuse's Andrew White attempts a jump-shot during Orange Madness.

Replacing some of that offensive production will be sophomore forward Tyler Lydon, the Orange’s top returning scorer. Lydon averaged 10.1 points and 6.3 rebounds per game as a freshman last season. His role in the Syracuse offense is expected to increase significantly.

“It’s just a matter of stepping up and being a leader on this team,” Lydon said at the team’s preseason media day. “Losing those guys [Cooney, Gbinije and Richardson] is obviously tougher to go through, but we have a lot of great pieces... For myself, I’m just excited. I just want to get out there and play.”

Lydon was named to the preseason All-ACC second team and SU head coach Jim Boeheim said at media day that he expects the sophomore to play all three frontcourt positions for the Orange.

“He’s one of the few players that I would ever try to let do that,” Boeheim said. “In fact, he’s probably the only player that I’ve ever let play those three positions.”

The Orange return two seniors who started every game last season, both of whom play in the frontcourt. Tyler Roberson’s 8.5 rebounds per contest led SU, while DaJuan Coleman averaged 4.9 points and 4.7 rebounds per game after missing all of 2014-15 with a knee injury.

Lydon’s versatility, along with the addition of sophomore Paschal Chukwu — a 7-foot-2-inch center who is eligible after transferring from Providence and redshirting last year — provide Syracuse with plenty of frontcourt options.

Syracuse also added two graduated transfers to its roster during the offseason. Both are proven scorers.

John Gillon is a speedy guard who averaged 13.2 points and 3.8 assists per game at Colorado State last season. He is expected to spearhead SU’s transition offense.  

“John’s a really good player,” Boeheim said at media day. “He gives us something that we don’t have in terms of penetration and quickness and he’s a good shooter.”

After announcing his decision to leave Nebraska, Andrew White III committed to Syracuse in late August and will play a major role in replacing Cooney and Gbinije in the Orange backcourt. White finished sixth in the Big Ten scoring rankings (16.6 ppg) and 15th in rebounding (5.9 rpg) during 2015-16.

“I think everything that I did [at Nebraska] will transition here.” White said. “I think I’ll be able to come in and mesh in with everybody else, do my part, and help the team.”

White also shot 41.2 percent from behind the 3-point line, a percentage that would have been tops on the Orange a season ago.

“I know he can shoot,” Boeheim said. “He’s a good all-around player. He’s a veteran guy.”

SU has three freshmen on its roster who are expected to be in Boeheim’s rotation, most notably guard Tyus Battle. Battle, a four-star recruit who was ranked 35th in the 2016 class by ESPN, could compete for a starting backcourt spot with White, Gillon and sophomore Frank Howard.

The Orange begin the year ranked 19th in the AP preseason poll and open the season with two exhibition games against Indiana (PA) on Nov. 1 and Le Moyne Nov. 8. SU will then play 13 non-conference games including at Wisconsin Nov. 29 and at Madison Square Garden against UConn on Dec. 5. Syracuse will also host Georgetown in a rivalry game on Dec. 17 and St. John’s on Dec. 21. ACC play begins for SU on New Year’s Day at Boston College. 

Post new comment

* Field must be completed for your comment to appear on The NewsHouse
The content of this field is kept private and will not be shown publicly.