SYRACUSE, N.Y. -- After starting the season 6-0, Syracuse lost thirteen of their final 26 games to finish the season 19-13 overall, 9-9 in ACC play. With wins over then-ranked No. 18 Connecticut and No. 25 Texas A&M in its first six games, expectations changed for the Orange, which leaves the success of this season up for debate.
If I told you these next five Syracuse basketball statistics back in October, would you believe them?
1. Kaleb Joseph (6.7 minutes per game): After starting 30-of-31 games last season for the Orange, who didn't have a postseason, sophomore guard Kaleb Joseph played in over 17 games this season, while averaging 6.7 minutes per game. No, he wasn't hurt. And according to Syracuse head coach Jim Boeheim, Joseph's defense kept him off the floor. His lack of knowledge and correct rotations in Boeheim's famous 2-3 zone frustrated the Hall-of-Famer, while his lackadaisical offensive approach wasn't much help either.
2. Tyler Lydon (1.8 blocks per game): When he arrived at Syracuse, expectations were growing each and every day for the 6-8 power forward from Elizaville. Lydon was supposed to come to Syracuse, play a small role his freshman year and gradually improve his importance to the program. He finished the regular season eighth in the ACC in blocks per game with 1.8. Surprising? Yes. Lydon made up for his lack of strength on the interior for his natural ability to block shots, get position and do the little things to stay effective.
He was undersized, yes. But nobody worked harder than Lydon. And fortunately for everyone, 7-foot-2 transfer center Paschal Chukwu will be eligible to play next season.
3. Dajuan Coleman (32 games played): Entering this season, Syracuse fans had a lot to worry about regarding Dajuan Coleman's health. Would he play all 32 games? Would he be a factor? Is he going to stay healthy? The answer to all of those questions is yes. Coleman played all 32 games for the Orange this season, including all 31 regular season contests. His play was up-and-down, but overall he contributed nicely for the Orange. In the ACC Tournament second round game vs. Pittsburgh, Coleman finished with 11 points and 11 rebounds, arguably his best performance of the season.
We've seen glimpses of what Dajuan is capable of, which makes his future, and next season, that much more exciting for Orange fans.
4. Malachi Richardson (13.2 points per game): When Syracuse was recruiting Malachi, and when he decided to play his college ball for Jim Boeheim, we knew he was a scorer -- more specifically, a shooter. SU fans expected Richardson to play a significant role this season in the offense, but not many predicted he would be second on the team in scoring, or ahead of senior Trevor Cooney (12.4 ppg). Richardson scored in double figures in 27 of SU's 32 games this season. He scored a career-high 21 points vs. Clemson on January 5.
It wasn't all pretty, though. Richardson struggled at times this season, especially in the first half of games. He went 4-for-20 from the field against St. John's, and scored a season-low two points vs. Georgetown on December 5.
5. Mike Hopkins (4-5 record): Everyone knew Syracuse assistant coach Mike Hopkins would be coaching games this season while Jim Boeheim was serving his nine-game suspension. When initially reported, it was understood that Hopkins would be coaching SU's first nine ACC games of the season. But after SU's seventh game of the season, a loss to Wisconsin, the NCAA announced, three days before the Orange traveled to Washington to take on long-time rival Georgetown, Boeheim would begin serving his suspension immediately.
Coach Hopkins then took over, and went 4-5 in SU's next nine games, leaving many Syracuse fans feeling uneasy about his performance.
It has been duly noted that Hopkins wasn't coaching "his way," but instead coaching as he thought his predecessor would instead. The Orange did lose two brutal games during his nine-game stretch: at St. John's and vs. Clemson.
Everyone would be surprised at a 4-5 record from Hopkins, but if anything, it will prepare him better when he officially takes over in roughly two years.