What would happen if the one-and-done rule didn’t exist? What if everyone stayed for the full four years of eligibility like they used to? The guys at the Lost Lettermen took a look. And the Syracuse lineup looks pretty good, good enough to be in the top four of these fantasized lineups. Let’s take a deeper look.
Point Guard- Michael Carter-Williams
As well as Tyler Ennis played this year, MCW brought a different dynamic to last year’s team. He was a better scorer than Ennis and his length caused crazy problems at the top of the zone. Add that MCW likely would have improved (he is the leading candidate for NBA Rookie of the Year), and you have a potential Player of the Year candidate in the NCAA.
Shooting Guard- Dion Waiters
Waiters was the scorer that this year’s team lacked. The Orange had no scoring punch off the bench or knock-down shooter. Yes, Dion may have gotten a little obsessed with himself at times, and maybe took shots he should have passed up, but one would hope he could have matured by the time his senior year rolled around.
Small Forward- CJ Fair
What is left to say about CJ Fair? He finished out a great career with a couple of lackluster performances, but he is a kid who really took advantage of his four years on the Hill. Take a look at where CJ was as a freshman and the player he was this year as a senior and it is quite an impressive transformation.
Power Forward- Jerami Grant
Grant came into his own this year. He continued to show the athleticism that pushed him into the rotation last year as a freshman and expanded his game to include more dribble drive. Grant has yet to declare for the NBA draft, and still has plenty of room to improve, especially in the jump shooting area.
Center- Fab Melo
Who else would the center be? If Fab could have stayed in class, he likely would have used his full eligibility and would have just finished his final year for the Orange. At that point, he would have been a dominant force down low, wrecking havoc on ACC teams like Duke and UNC without a strong option down low. As well as Rakeem Christmas has progressed the last two years, Fab was a scary presence in the middle of that zone, and another part of his game that would have only gotten better.
Bench- Tyler Ennis, Trevor Cooney, Rakeem Christmas
Jim Boeheim would be able to bring three-fifths of this year’s starting line up off the bench. Ennis would have been able to grow more at his own speed as opposed to being pushed right into the starting role. Obviously it still worked out but it could have kept Ennis around for another year or maybe two. Cooney might have been able to provide more of a scoring spark off the bench than he did from the starting lineup in his second year in the bench role. And Rakeem Christmas would have made for an outstanding backup to Fab for when he inevitably picked up two quick fouls.
So what is the main difference between this fantasy “players stay all four years” team and this year’s team?
First, the scoring. MCW and Waiters are much better volume scorers in the backcourt than Ennis and Cooney. For much of the year, the Orange was able to get by with the Ennis-Cooney combo, but it turned out to be too little scoring. Then you add in Fab down low who would have provided a little more scoring than Christmas, especially with the way he would have developed by his senior year.
Next, there is the idea of the defense. Ennis was an outstanding defender, leading the nation in steals per game. But an Achilles’ heel of the Orange was the ability for opponents to hit three pointers. With 6’6” MCW and 6’4” Waiters at the top of the zone as opposed to 6’2” Ennis and the 6’4” Cooney at the top of the zone, it makes a difference. MCW was a huge difference-maker on the defensive end with his crazy length, being able to stretch the zone further from the basket. Down low, Fab was a different type of imposing presence in the lane than Christmas. Both got this job done, but Fab seemed to be able to alter shots and absorb contact better than Rak.
Then of course there is the experience factor. This shouldn’t be underestimated in college basketball. Yes, Kentucky just made the Final Four again with yet another new group of freshmen. But look at some of the recent upsets and successful teams, Louisville winning the National Championship last year, UConn making the Final Four this year; and some of last year’s upsets like Mercer, FGCU and Lehigh. What do they all have in common? Core players that played a lot together. There is something to be said for continuity.
Well, while this would have been fun to watch play out in the Carrier Dome, it’s just fantasy. Would this team have finished the deal and ran the table? Would it have been worse? Are there too many mouths to feed on this team, too many people who want the ball? We can only wonder.
And hope that the one-and-done rule is changed and we see more of a combination of players from different years.
Posted by: Seth Goldberg