Many Syracuse fans had high hopes when they learned that the top recruit in the 2012 class had Syracuse in his top three schools. The scene in the Carrier Dome when he arrived for his official visit can only be described as a frenzy. People believed that they were looking at the next great Syracuse big man.
Orange fans were crushed, however, when he elected to attend the University of Kentucky instead of suiting up for the Orange. Although it would have been nice to see Noel in the middle of coach Jim Boeheim's famous 2-3 zone, I am going to explain why Syracuse is going to be fine without Nerlens.
Rakeem Christmas had a mediocre freshman season with the Orange. Although Christmas started every game for Syracuse, he usually did not play more than 10 minutes in a single game.
Christmas was forced to step into a more prominent role in the NCAA tournament, due to the suspension of starting center Fab Melo. Christmas played well defensively and also excelled on the glass for the Orange, but his limited offensive game was exposed at times.
Christmas needs to improve his offensive skill set this offseason to become a more productive player. I believe that, with his athletic ability, he has the chance to do some special things on both the offensive and defensive ends of the court.
Nerlens Noel has a playing style similar to Christmas, as they both are very good on defense with limited scoring ability. Although Christmas is not nearly the defender Noel is, he should be able to hold his own this season.
DaJuan Coleman was the 14th ranked player according to ESPN's college basketball recruiting rankings. Coleman has a solid build at 6'9'' and 275 pounds, and should be able to step in right away and contribute.
Coleman has a very advanced offensive game for an incoming freshman. In fact, he may actually be better on the offensive end than top recruit Nerlens Noel.
Coleman is also a decent defender when he is motivated to put in maximum effort. One positive for the Orange is the fact that Coleman will likely stay with the Orange for at least two years, while Noel is almost certainly one-and-done with Kentucky.
Jerami Grant may be the gem of the 2012 class. Grant is a 6'7'' power forward that can really score the basketball.
Grant comes from a family of great basketball players as his father, Harvey, and his uncle, Horace, were both solid big men in the NBA not too long ago. Grant will likely see limited playing time during his freshman season, but look for him to develop into one of the ACC's best big men.
The addition of Grant gives the Orange another very talented front court player, which will help Syracuse rebound from the disappointment of not landing Nerlens Noel.
Nerlens Noel is projected to be the number one overall selection in the 2013 NBA draft, so he will likely declare after his freshman season with the Wildcats. Although the Kentucky Wildcats proved that a team of freshmen can win a national championship, it is still difficult to truly develop freshmen into great college players in just one season.
Noel is a defensive force, but his offensive game has a long way to go before he can truly be a team's best player. It will be a nearly impossible task for John Calipari to fully develop Noel's game in just one season.
If Noel came to Syracuse and had a promising freshman season it would be heartbreaking to see him leave for the NBA. That being said, Noel would have still been a great addition to an already talented Syracuse team.
Coach Jim Boeheim always seems to get the best out of the players that suit up for the Orange. Next season will be no different, as the Orange should compete for not only a Big East championship but a national championship as well.
With Boeheim at the helm, the Orange will always have a good chance to compete for a national title. This year's team has a lot of talent, and with the leadership of Boeheim they could be in for a special season, even without Nerlens Noel.