Syracuse basketball has been hit with serious sanctions due to the NCAA inquiry over the past few years. They include, a loss of three scholarships during each of four seasons, vacated wins, suspension of Jim Boeheim for nine conference games, fines and loss of funds, and an acceptance of the self-imposed postseason ban for this season.
The loss of scholarships will certainly impact Syracuse recruiting, but will do so in the best possible way from the Orange’s perspective. The ruling indicates that Syracuse must start their loss of scholarships next season, but can push it to the 2016-17 season of they have scholarship offers already executed. Given that there are four players signed and an offer to Thomas Bryant has already been extended, the 12 scholarships losses over four years will begin in the 2016 recruiting cycle.
Pushing the scholarship loss to the 2016-17 season makes the 2015-16 season a full scholarship campaign. That means Syracuse will have their full allotment of 13 scholarships available. As has been well documented, the incoming four 2015 signees, Tyler Lydon, Moustapha Diagne, Malachi Richardson and Franklin Howard, put them at 13 scholarship players on the roster.
But Syracuse wants to add talented four-star center Thomas Bryant to that group. The loss of scholarships for the 2016-17 season manes they should not impact Syracuse’s pursuit of the prized center prospect. They are back to the original scenario of needing one player to leave in order to free up a roster spot. That could be by someone leaving for the NBA Draft, someone else going pro or a transfer. A transfer seems most likely out of those three options.
At least that was what was originally thought from the NCAA ruling. However, Syracuse self-imposed a one scholarship reduction for the 2015-16 season. That means Syracuse will need to have two players leave to bring Bryant in.
Also of note, Bryant is visiting Indiana this weekend. He told CuseNation.com that he has not spoken to Syracuse "in a while." Justin Albers from AllHoosiers.com reported that he is hearing Bryant is leaning towards the Hoosiers but his mom is pushing for Syracuse. The self-imposed scholarship reduction significantly impacts their ability to bring him in at this point.
Where this does become interesting is in the 2016 class. After next season, Trevor Cooney and Michael Gbinije will have used up their four years of eligibility. That pushes the scholarship total to 10 if no one else leaves after this season or after next. The potential addition of Bryant would not impact this number, as someone would have to leave to make room for him.
Syracuse already has one player committed in the 2016 cycle in four-star forward Matthew Moyer. His addition to the roster would push the scholarship total to 10, the limit after the three that are lost from the NCAA sanctions. That leaves Syracuse technically with no room for another player to join Moyer in the 2016 class, but that would not stop them from pursuing some elite talent.
At the top of the list is five-star Tyus Battle, who Syracuse has had on campus multiple times. The Orange will venture forth with 2016 recruiting under the assumption that there will be another scholarship available. Whether that be from an early NBA Draft entry, a transfer or other situation, that will work itself out. The max they would likely take in 2016 would be three.
Beyond that, from the 2017 cycle and beyond, Syracuse would also face the 10 available scholarship limit, putting some added pressure on their efforts.
Syracuse will also have limits on the number of off campus visitors until May 31, 2017. Normally, the NCAA allows four such coaches. This will impact Syracuse's strategy as far watching players and visiting their school.
On Court Impact
Where this really hurt Syracuse is not the vacated wins, which is obviously never an ideal scenario. Rather, the lack of being able to participate in the NCAA Tournament this season. It robs senior Rakeem Christmas, who has having a strong season as the leader of the 2014-15 Orange.
While you never want to rob a team a chance of participating in arguably sport’s greatest event, specifically a senior that has waited to become the focal point of the offense, the postseason ban this year as opposed to next is probably better for the program. The reason being that next year’s squad is set to be one of the deepest and most talented that they have had in some time.
With McCullough staying for his sophomore year after suffering a torn ACL and being lost for the rest of this season, Syracuse has a very talented roster that should be able to compete with anyone. The scenario of McCullough staying seemed extremely unlikely prior to the injury. But when you add his talent to the returning players and incoming freshmen, there is every reason to believe Syracuse can compete for a Final Four or championship run next year. Not to mention the potential of adding star center Thomas Bryant to an already loaded roster.
The immediate on-court impact is the loss of Boeheim for the first nine conference games next season. It likely means Mike Hopkins will take the reigns for those games, assuming he does not take a head coaching job elsewhere.
Starting in the 2016-17 season, Syracuse will only have 10 scholarship players on the roster. That severely impacts their depth and ability to miss on recruits. Syracuse has to hit on nearly every player they bring in to continue to play at a high level on the national scale. There will always be talent at Syracuse, but it puts a priority on hitting on the right players and hoping for good health as injuries will impact a roster even more so with only 10 scholarship players available.
It also costs Jim Boeheim 108 total wins, dropping him to sixth on the all-time list.
Where Does Syracuse Go From Here?
Long-term, Syracuse basketball will be just fine. They will still have talent filled rosters with elite recruits coming in for the immediate future. Syracuse will also continue to recruit well because of the tradition of the program and style of play.
The punishments outlined by the NCAA will definitely be felt over the next several seasons. But if Syracuse is smart and effective in their recruiting, they should be able to survive the sanctions. The key is developing a new recruiting strategy to absorb the impact of the loss off scholarships and still compete at a high level.
With the loss of wins, you have to wonder how this impacts Jim Boeheim's future. Will he stay longer to move back up the all-time list? Or will he try to make a run over the next couple of years and call it a career at that point. Will this impact Mike Hopkins' desire to stay or will he push for a head coaching job elsewhere even more than he has in the last?
Those questions remain to be answered, but are situations to monitor going forward.
Syracuse also has the option to appeal certain findings. The decision on filing thag appeal has not been made, but Syracuse has indicated they do not agree with all of the NCAA findings.