Moustapha Diagne’s ineligibility rocked the SU sports world pretty hard on Thursday night, but now it’s up to the coaching staff to adjust for the upcoming season with only nine players in the rotation, barring any appeal decisions by the NCAA. So, with the season a few short months away, it’s time to look at how the Orange will lineup on the court with such little depth.
In the past five years, the Orange has been pumping out guards, and this year, the backcourt is going to be the strength of the team again after a year dominated by a low-post player. Losing Diagne means that the Orange will have to give more playing time to all of its players – but the backcourt isn’t the issue here. Returning sophomore point guard Kaleb Joseph will get minutes at the point and will be joined by senior leader Trevor Cooney. Both will log huge minutes.
There is reason to believe that Joseph will be better than last year, but Diagne’s departure means that incoming freshman Franklin Howard will certainly get minutes this season, which is a huge turnaround for those who thought he would redshirt. Top incoming freshman Malachi Richardson get limited minutes in the backcourt, but without Diagne, expect him to work primarily on the wing. Similarly, Michael Gbinije will get minutes at point guard to spare Joseph occasionally, but his size is going to be needed down low.
In the last six months, the transfer of BJ Johnson, the departure of Chris McCullough, and the Diagne situation have totally changed the complexion of this SU roster. Now, the frontcourt is going to depend on Coleman’s health. Unless fans want to see Chinoso Obokoh anchoring the zone for a majority of the game, Coleman is going to have to be healthy and ready to contribute. Expect Roberson to be playing almost the entire game, barring foul trouble, and Tyler Lydon to get big minutes, too. Gbinije and Richardson will have to log minutes at the forward spot with such little depth, but, if they are on the wing opposite Lydon, the Orange could struggle to rebound the ball.
The biggest obstacle this year will be foul trouble. Although SU will only have nine players active, all nine are talented and worthy of playing time. Coach Boeheim usually trims his rotation to eight players anyway, so there is reason to believe the team can be successful. Avoiding foul trouble is the key to success for Boeheim (and Mike Hopkins’) team this year with such little margin for error.