Four players have started in all 9 of Syracuse’s games this season. Freshmen Chris McCullough and Kaleb Joseph, along with veterans Trevor Cooney and Rakeem Christmas, have been all but locks to be on the court for tip-off.
The fifth and final starting spot, on the other hand, has been a question mark. Three different players have held it, and none of them with any consistency. Coach Jim Boeheim is still trying to figure out who will be the best fit for the role, and all three have attributes that could get them the job.
Roberson started the first four games for the Orange. He then missed the next two games with a strained abdominal muscle and hasn’t started since. After a double-double in the team’s opener against Kennesaw State, he averaged only 5.3 PPG and 3.3 RPG in his next 3 starts. If Roberson’s injury hadn’t put him on the bench, Boeheim may have done it himself.
Still, there’s a lot of potential in Roberson’s game. The 6’8” forward would add some needed size and driving ability on offense, and also fits well alongside McCullough and Christmas in Syracuse’s trademark 2-3 zone. Roberson played 33 minutes off the bench against Louisiana Tech after an injury to Michael Gbinije, and it’ll be interesting to see how much floor time the sophomore gets now that he looks to be back to full health.
After Roberson went out, fellow sophomore B.J. Johnson took his place. Johnson started Syracuse’s next 3 games, but a turnover 13 seconds in against Michigan earned him a firm spot on the bench; he’d go on to play only 3 minutes in the game. Classic Boeheim.
Since then, Johnson has seen limited playing time. The forward’s shooting has been off this year, going only 28.6% from the field, and he hasn’t hit a shot from behind the arc since before Thanksgiving. Johnson is supposed to be a secondary shooter for the Orange, but he’ll be looking on from the sidelines if he isn’t able to figure out what’s wrong with his jumper.
The starter of the Orange’s last 2 games has been Michael Gbinije. Gbinije scored 13 in his first start before fouling out against St. John’s, and had been Boeheim’s go-to off the bench when he wasn’t starting. It looked as if Gbinije may take the starting spot for good, that is until he missed the entire second half of the Louisiana Tech game with a back injury. Roberson took over by playing all 20 minutes of the half, and only raised more questions as to who would start in the future.
Gbinije was back to practicing on Tuesday, and it appears that he’ll be able to play on Saturday vs. Villanova. How much the back injury will effect him is yet to be seen.
The first few games of the season are used to figure out what your team has and who will be playing what roles. Unfortunately for the Orange, injuries and shooting slumps have left them in the dark. Regardless of who starts on Saturday, Coach Boeheim will need the best out of all of the members of his team; an undefeated Villanova squad will be sure to take advantage of any holes.
Posted: Nathan Dickinson