When Syracuse fans heard the breaking news regarding Moustapha Diagne, a concern for lack-of-depth should be the first thing that comes to mind. Without Diagne, the Orange are limited to DaJuan Coleman and Chinonso Obokoh as the only two centers on the roster.
In the meantime, the Orange will have a 7-foot-2 transfer center, Paschal Chukwu, watching each game from behind the bench. NCAA transfer rules will force Chukwu to sit out the 2015-16 season. He will have three seasons of eligibility remaining, beginning in the 2016-17 season.
The big question for the Orange: How will they survive the lack of depth at the forward/center positions?
The starting five for the 2015-16 season should be: Kaleb Joseph, Trevor Cooney, Michael Gbinije, Tyler Roberson and DaJuan Coleman. Chinonso Obokoh, Malachi Richardson and Tyler Lydon are likely the first three off the bench, in no particular order.
Coleman, a former 5-star prospect with limited experience, is coming off of successful knee surgery after redshirting the 2014-15 season. He will have junior eligibility, but is a senior in the classroom. How will DaJuan’s knee hold up? How many minutes can he play a game? Will he be able to get up-and-down the court? Can he be relied on?
Those questions will remained unanswered until the season starts. We don’t know if Coleman’s knee will hold up for the entire season. We don’t know if he’ll be able to bounce back and be the player Jim Boeheim expected when he signed his National Letter of Intent in 2011.
However, sources inside the program have told CuseNation.com that Coleman is in the “best shape of his life.” One source told Scout that DaJuan is “a totally new player” since his recovery from knee surgery. He’s expected to be 100% by the November 13th opener vs. Lehigh.
After redshirting his freshman year at Syracuse, 6-foot-10 center Chinonso Obokoh played only 6.8 minutes per game for the Orange in the 2014-15 season. He scored a career-high 4 points twice, against Loyola (MD) and Holy Cross. Despite only playing in 13 games, and never more than 16 minutes, Obokoh nearly fouled out in two of those games. He’s aggressive, and inexperienced, which could lead to a short leash off the bench in the 2-3 zone.
There have been questions regarding Chino’s remaining eligibility at Syracuse. Despite redshirting his freshman season, reports have indicated that he lost that year of eligibility, and will be a junior in the upcoming season. The issue is based off of improperly classifying Chino as a student when he arrived at Bishop Kearney High School (Rochester, NY) from Nigeria.
Tyler Roberson will be the most relied on Syracuse front-court player this season. Roberson, who will be entering his junior season, averaged 28.7 minutes last season for the Orange. He scored 8.3 points and grabbed 7.3 rebounds per game, but his numbers don’t do the justice. Roberson, who I consider a top-5 rebounder in the country, is due to have a breakout season for Syracuse. The Union (NJ) native had six double-double’s last season, and missed two more by only one rebound. He went for a career-high 19 points against the future national champion Duke Blue Devils at the Carrier Dome on February 14th.
I, as well as those close to the program, believe Roberson could NBA-bound with a big junior season. Although leaving may hypothetically be the best situation for Roberson, he could be a vital part to a stacked 2016-17 team. A team that will be led by Kaleb Joseph, Tyus Battle, Malachi Richardson, Matthew Moyer, Paschal Chukwu and potentially DaJuan Coleman. The 2016-17 team could be a top-10 preseason squad, and Roberson would add another scorer, rebounder, defender and leader to the team.
The final option to play significant minutes at the forward/center spot is incoming freshman Tyler Lydon. Lydon’s stock went viral after a solid Jordan Brand Classic showing, where the 6-foot-9 forward scored 13 points on 6-of-6 shooting. Despite being 6-foot-9, Lydon needs to add strength before manning the middle of Jim Boeheim’s 2-3 zone. I think of Tyler as more of a stretch-four that can shoot the three, score off the dribble and run the floor.
Lydon was Syracuse’s first 2015 commit, and then made it official on November 12 when he signed his National Letter of Intent. Lydon will be the emergency option at the center position. While he’s still learning the zone, Tyler is more suited for a forward spot on both ends of the court.
There isn’t a way around it, Diagne’s absence will hurt Syracuse immensely in the 2015-16 season. That’s not to say that Moustapha would come in and dominate as a freshman, but it’s another body. It’s a 6-foot-8, 240-poundforward that is known for his rebounding and defensive ability. Diagne was rated as the No. 1 power forward in New Jersey, and was a huge get when he committed to Syracuse.
It’s unclear if Diagne will remain interested in attending Syracuse after two years of JUCO. It’s one of the many unanswered questions regarding this difficult situation. But when the NCAA is involved, what do you expect?