Syracuse Basketball: Orange's Best Situational Lineups for 2014-15

Gene Siudut@@GeneSiudutContributor IIIJuly 31, 2014

Syracuse Basketball: Orange's Best Situational Lineups for 2014-15

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    Jim Boeheim and Rakeem Christmas
    Jim Boeheim and Rakeem ChristmasUSA TODAY Sports

    The Syracuse Orange men’s basketball team will begin its 2014-15 season with an exhibition game against a familiar foe on Nov. 2.

    The Carleton (Canada) Ravens will travel to the Carrier Dome in an attempt to avenge an exhibition loss to the Orange on Aug. 22 of last year. In that game, the Orange trailed 47-32 with less than 15 minutes to play, but a late run helped put the game into overtime, where Syracuse eked out a 69-65 win. Carleton defeated Wisconsin just two days prior, 95-82, so the Orange knew they’d be in for a fight.

    Winners of 10 of the last 12 Canadian national championships, Carleton will be a great test for the Orange. Last season, the four-game exhibition trip to Canada served as a way to get freshman Tyler Ennis acclimated as the new Syracuse point guard. This season, the Orange will host two exhibitions, Carleton and the Division III Adrian (Michigan) Bulldogs on Nov. 10.

    With C.J. Fair and Baye Moussa Keita graduating and Ennis and Jerami Grant leaving for the NBA, these games will give Orange fans a chance to see the new-look Syracuse.

    And it will be new-look.

    Freshman Kaleb Joseph is primed to take over the reins as Syracuse’s fourth starting point guard in four years.

    Rakeem Christmas, who graduated in three years and is playing his fourth year as a graduate student, could emerge as the post power the Orange have dreamed he’d be for the duration of his career.

    Another freshman, Chris McCullough, will attempt to fill the power forward spot and could be a one-and-done player.

    B.J. Johnson, Tyler Roberson, Ron Patterson and Chinonso Obokoh (redshirt) spent their freshmen years watching and learning. Each will have an opportunity to break out and fill the gaps left open by the 2014 exodus.

    Junior Trevor Cooney will look to replicate the first two-thirds of last season, when he was one of the best three-point shooters in the country, and forget the last third, when he wasn’t.

    Syracuse’s utility man, Michael Gbinije, will play both guard spots and probably a good bit of small forward.

    Not to be forgotten is DaJuan Coleman, the biggest and strongest man on the roster, who may or may not be around for the start of the season after leg surgery sidelined him most of last season.

    Coach Jim Boeheim will have his hands full trying to figure out which lineup will suit his team the best. Here’s a peek at the lineups Boeheim might throw on the court, depending on the situation.

Starting Lineup with DaJuan Coleman Healthy

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    DaJuan Coleman
    DaJuan ColemanNate Shron/Getty Images
    • PG: Kaleb Joseph
    • SG: Trevor Cooney
    • SF: Tyler Roberson
    • PF: Rakeem Christmas
    • C: DaJuan Coleman

    This is the lineup if Coleman is healthy. According to Donna Ditota of The Post-Standard, Coleman’s status is still up in the air, but there has been progress in his healing from surgery near his knee.

    Even if Coleman is healthy, his starting position will be symbolic more than utilitarian. Coleman traditionally starts games but usually finds his way to the bench after the first few stanzas.

    At that point, Chinonso Obokoh could be the first off the bench to fill the center spot. He’s had a year as a redshirt to learn under Baye Moussa Keita, work on his game and put on some muscle. He should be ready to jump right into the lineup.

    Roberson gets the nod by default. He showed signs that he could be a breakout star but was mostly ineffective. There’s no part of Roberson’s game that is terrible, but he will need to show great improvements from last season if he is to hold on to the starting spot.

    The most interesting newcomer, however, is Joseph.

    When Tyler Ennis took over the point guard spot from the departed Michael Carter-Williams, no one could have imagined, other than coach Boeheim, how good he was going to be. Ennis was a natural leader and seemed to have the calm demeanor of a Martin Brodeur.

    Joseph will not be Ennis, nor does he have to be.

    Joseph, at 6’3”, is a couple of inches taller than Ennis and has a reputation as a score-first guard. He’s strong and has a quick first step. He should be able to get some space between himself and his defender, which should give him the space he needs to be an effective passer.

Starting Lineup Without DaJuan Coleman

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    Trevor Cooney
    Trevor CooneyJared Wickerham/Getty Images
    • PG: Kaleb Joseph
    • SG: Trevor Cooney
    • SF: Tyler Roberson
    • PF: Chris McCullough
    • C: Rakeem Christmas

    Without Coleman, Christmas will have to slide over to the center spot. He’s perfectly able to handle that load and, if he can stay out of foul trouble, can be an incredible defender. In fact, Christmas at the center of the 2-3 zone will probably happen quite often anyway, with one of the merits of the zone being that it can protect a big man from getting into foul trouble, as it is not easy to penetrate and post.

    This lineup thrusts newcomer McCullough into the spotlight.

    He will be called upon to fill in for C.J. Fair, the Orange’s leading scorer over the past seasons. At 6’10”, the highly touted McCullough will be able to play over the top of his opponents, but his physique will need to fill out a bit if he’s going to thrive as the slasher the Orange need him to be.

3-Point Lineup

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    Michael Gbinije
    Michael GbinijeUSA TODAY Sports
    • PG: Ron Patterson
    • SG: Trevor Cooney
    • SF: Michael Gbinije
    • PF: Chris McCullough
    • C: Rakeem Christmas

    Cooney, Gbinije and Patterson are all good three-point shooters, with Cooney being the cream of the crop. Cooney shot over 50 percent from beyond the arc for most of the season, but after going 9-of-13 from three against Notre Dame on Feb. 3, Cooney would not break 50 percent from outside in any game the rest of the season.

    In fact, only one time did he even get to 50 percent, which was a 4-of-8 performance against Western Michigan in the second round of the NCAA tournament.

    How Cooney bounces back from last season is anyone’s guess, but he looked tired at the end of the season from opposing teams tracking him and having to put so much work into getting open.

    Gbinije, at 6’7”, has the length to shoot over defenders, and Patterson, with a little work, could give Syracuse a nice trio of long-range shooters, should the need arise.

    Especially if Gbinije and Patterson take some of the attention away from Cooney.

Defensive-Stop Lineup

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    Rakeem Christmas
    Rakeem ChristmasRich Barnes/Getty Images
    • PG: Trevor Cooney
    • SG: Michael Gbinije
    • SF: Tyler Roberson
    • PF: Rakeem Christmas
    • C: Chinonso Obokoh

    This lineup is 6’4”, 6’7”, 6’8”, 6’9” and 6’10”, respectively. The best Syracuse zones are always the ones that can stretch the floor, and this one does the trick.

    Obokoh gets the benefit of the doubt after learning under the tutelage of Baye Moussa Keita.

    Christmas is a very good shot-blocker and rebounder. Cooney and Gbinije are proven defenders and can seal up the top of the zone.

    Roberson is the wild card.

    He gets the nod because of his experience in the zone. In limited minutes, he wasn’t a good defender by any means, but with added playing time and a year to better learn the Boeheim system, Roberson should be fine and, at his length, will help stretch the zone across the baseline.


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