The Syracuse Orange basketball team took a big hit on Saturday when Daily Orange Sports broke the news that second-leading scorer James Southerland has been suspended indefinitely.
The news broke from the school's student newspaper via Twitter:
SU forward James Southerland will not play until further notice due to an eligibility matter, according to SU Athletics release.— Daily Orange Sports (@DOsports) January 12, 2013
Southerland had emerged as arguably the best sixth man in the country, and might be the best pure-scorer Syracuse has.
This is a major loss for the nation's No. 7 team, so let's take a look at what this means for Jim Boeheim and co.
What the Team Loses
Southerland's 13.6 points and 5.2 rebounds per game have become essential for the Orange.
His offensive skills cannot be overstated, as seen when he dropped 35 points on Arkansas during the team's first road test.
Another key attribute of Southerland's that we can't forget is his defense.
With a long 6'8" frame and his special athleticism, he was very efficient in Boeheim's fabled 2-3 zone. He was able to extend out on the wing or play well inside, while averaging 1.3 steals and 1.0 blocks per game.
He has become a complete player in his senior season, and Southerland will be sorely missed until he comes back—if he comes back.
Who Must Step Up in Southerland's Absence
With 13.6 points, 5.2 rebounds, 1.3 steals and 1.0 blocks per game missing, the team must rely on someone else to step up in Southerland's 26.3 minutes per contest.
No one will be able to step in and replicate what Southerland did, but the whole team will be looking to make up for his absence.
The biggest starting guys I'm looking to are Brandon Triche and C.J. Fair.
Triche is the team's leading scorer, and if he is given more chances I expect that he can help make up for Southerland's scoring.
Fair is another guy who can score easily for the team, and is third on the team with 13.3 per game. However, Fair can also help on defense and rebounding, as he is a similar player to Southerland. Fair is also 6'8" and 215 pounds, and while he is already playing a big role for the team, he will be asked to do more.
The biggest question is who can step up off the bench.
After Southerland, the team's bench is led by Baye Keita and Trevor Cooney, but neither of those guys are similar enough to Southerland to take over for him.
The new go-to guy off the bench for Cuse will be freshman Jerami Grant, who has been impressive in his 11.2 minutes per game.
Grant has shown explosive athleticism, the ability to score inside and rebound, and play tight defense on the wing.
Everybody who has seen him knows Grant has a bright future as he takes over a bigger role with the team, and now he may get that chance a bit earlier than anyone could have expected.
What the Schedule Looks Like
The timing of this suspension could not have been worse.
The schedule is not going to be kind to the Orange, as they play Villanova twice, against No. 21 Cincinnati, at Pittsburgh and against No. 17 Notre Dame. What's worse is that the team's toughest game of the year (at No. 3 Louisville) is just a week away.
The Orange are just starting Big East play, and we could see the team drop a few games while Southerland is gone.
What to Expect from the Orange
Losing your second-leading scorer is never good, but if any team can come back from a loss like this, it's Syracuse.
The Orange are very deep this year, and I have no doubt that Grant will play well when he gets his minutes. With a star-studded team, depth and great coaching, I expect the Orange to remain a Top 10 or Top 15 team.