No Noel, No Problem For 'Cuse
By Michael McAllister
Nerlens Noel chose to "take his talents" to Kentucky on Wednesday. While that news is certainly a disappointment, there is good news for the Orange.
You know things are good with the program when the "backup plan" is starting three McDonald's All-Americans. Let's face it; this team is still loaded with talent. Michael Carter-Williams could be a top five point-guard in the entire country next season. Yes, he's that good. Brandon Triche is a senior who has started every game of his career, and has been a starter on two teams that were a #1 seed in the NCAA Tournament. Rakeem Christmas is a McDonald's All-American who grew up a lot in Fab Melo's absence. CJ Fair came into his own last season, and is an experienced junior who has looked like the best player on the team at times. DaJuan Coleman is a McDonald's All-American who frankly has looked better than Noel in recent all-star games.
So no, the sky is not falling. The season is not over. The world is not coming to an end. Rather, Syracuse still has the talent and depth to be a legit Final Four contender. Remember, the five mentioned are just the starters. They don't include a Trevor Cooney, who by all accounts has been fantastic in practice. He can flat out shoot the lights out from the outside. It doesn't include James Southerland who got much better towards the end of the season. It doesn't include Baye Keita who played his best basketball of the season in the NCAA Tournament. Nor does it include Jerami Grant, whose versatility and athleticism could allow him to make an instant impact.
The other good news is this means more playing time for DaJuan Coleman, who the more I watch the more excited I am to see him play here. Comparing him to Noel, Coleman is the better rebounder and offensive player. It's not close. Noel is a much better defender, however, and is more athletic. But Coleman brings a lot of things to the table that should have Syracuse fans borderline giddy. Remember, he was the top rated center in his class for a long, long time. And, Calipari really wanted him. He wanted Coleman bad. Expect DaJuan to make an instant impact next season. He's already working on his body, and his conditioning in order to prepare for a big role.
There is plenty to be optimistic about going into next season. Noel not coming here does not change that.