A month ago Syracuse fans couldn’t have been happier about the state of its basketball. The team that was once a three-time loser to Pitt had made it all the way to the Final Four, and the Orange was supposed to be even better next season despite losing its two senior leaders. New talent was coming in, and the transfers of Chino Obokoh and Kaleb Joseph made room for even more. Spike Albrecht was coming. Grant Mullins was coming. John Gillon was coming. Jim Boeheim would have more players than he knew what to do with. Were we a little too optimistic?
Of those three potential transfers, only one came. Oh, and Malachi Richardson left. Maybe the new Orange is still better than the Final Four team, but when you look at the hole left at the guard spots, you can’t be as sure as you were in April.
People don’t realize just how much losing Malachi Richardson hurts the balance of this team. Not only is SU now without each of its top three scorers from 2015-16, but Richardson was the future. He was the only returning guard on the roster who had gotten major minutes last season. He had arguably the most upside and pure talent of anyone on the team. He was supposed to lead the guards the same way he led the Orange past Virginia in the Elite Eight. So… what now?
Sure, John Gillon’s experience helps, but he’s never played in a Power Five conference and never played the 2-3 zone. Maybe he’s a major producer on the offensive end, but thinking he’ll be able to step in for what Michael Gbinije and Trevor Cooney gave this team in experience is ridiculous. Tyus Battle’s prospects are promising, but he still hasn’t put on the Orange jersey yet. Kaleb Joseph was a top 50 recruit in his class, remember? Even if he is the talent everyone hopes he will be, you can’t give him the responsibility of leading the Orange in front of 35,000+ in the Carrier Dome. That’s like expecting him to be the next Carmelo Anthony, and part of the reason why Joseph failed so miserably. Does that make Frank Howard – and his 10.5 minutes per game last season – the veteran guard on this team? If it does, it’s time to start worrying about the state of Syracuse’s backcourt.
Posted: Nathan Dickinson