In case you were on vacation and did not speak to another human being over the last few days, Syracuse basketball self-imposed a postseason ban for this season. Obviously you feel bad for senior Rakeem Christmas, who has become one of the better low-post players in the country. The good news for him is that he has two matchups against Duke’s Jahlil Okafor, which could boost his NBA Draft stock with strong performances.
It is no secret that this year’s Syracuse squad is not as strong as it has been over the past few seasons, nor as strong as it is expected to be for the 2015-16 campaign. So a postseason ban this year, unfortunately for Christmas and the rest of the bunch, was deemed to be in the best interest of the program.
The question is, however, how does this impact recruiting? Assuming this is the only year Syracuse is banned from postseason play, meaning the NCAA does not tack on a second year, the impact will be minimal. Especially if any scholarship losses are deferred to the 2016-17 season.
The ban as it currently stands does not impact those four talented players. When they arrive, the ban will have already been served and things will be back to normal. Syracuse can earn an NCAA Tournament bid and compete in that tournament.
But what about the loss of scholarships the NCAA could potentially impose? Here’s the thing about that. The NCAA, regardless of how much we all know it is more lip service than actual practice, continues to state they put the student-athletes as their top priority. If that is the case, how could they justify taking scholarships away from Syracuse next season?
Assuming no one leaves early or transfers, Syracuse is at its scholarship limit with the four incoming players, each of whom have signed their national letter of intent. That means if the NCAA takes scholarships away from Syracuse next season, they would be forcing the Orange to cut a player from the roster or tell one of their commits to sign elsewhere. That seems to contradict their “student-athletes first” mantra.
Now the NCAA makes decisions that baffle all the time, so it would not be shocking for them to take that route. But even still, the most likely situation in a scholarship loss scenario is for the 2016-17 season, impacting the 2016 recruiting class.
That means all four players currently signed are not going anywhere. In fact, CuseNation.com reached out to each to find out if the self-imposed ban made them question their decision, and the answer was a resounding “no.”
Signing their letters of intent is also an important factor. Even if Syracuse were banned from the postseason next year, the four 2015 players are still signed. Even if they wanted to look for another school, the signed letter of intent complicates things. It would mean the Orange would have to grant a release to those players in order for them to get out of their letter.
That scenario could prove to be ugly on both sides, but is a very unlikely one even if Syracuse is unable to participate in March Madness next year.
Scholarship losses for the 2016 season would impact that class, but Syracuse is losing Michael Gbinije and Trevor Cooney to graduation, and DaJuan Coleman may head to the next level as well. Not to mention the prospects of Chris McCullough coming back for a third season are not great assuming he comes back to form next year. That leaves plenty of open slots even with the potential loss of scholarships.
That would also mean Syracuse could continue to pursue Thomas Bryant, the big remaining fish on Syracuse's radar. Loss of scholarships in 2016 laves the Orange back in the same boat they were prior to NCAA punishment. Needing one player to leave early or transfer in order to have room for Bryant.
Four-star forward Matthew Moyer has already pledged Orange in 2016 and five star Tyus Battle is the clear top target. Neither have indicated that the postseason ban will impact their status or interest in Syracuse. In fact, Battle's father, Gary, had only positive things to say about Syracuse when reached by text Thursday evening.
"I love coach Boeheim, Hop and G-Mac," Battle said. "Those guys and Red have great integrity. It does not have any impact on how we feel about Syracuse and/or the staff."
Nor should it. A postseason ban this year does not impact 2015 or 2016 recruits. A loss of scholarships in 2016-17 would impact the number of slots available, but not their ability to play in March. As outlined above, there are enough slots that Syracuse can absorb a loss of scholarships next cycle and still recruit at a high level.
Now all we can do is wait. Wait (yes, more waiting) for the NCAA to release their ruling and find out if Syracuse will be punished further. Even if they are, without another year added on to the current postseason ban, the Orange should be just fine on the recruiting trail.
Tyus Battle In Action: