Syracuse forward Tyler Roberson has the opportunity to emerge as one of the best rebounders in the ACC this season. In 2015-16, he finished ninth in the conference, averaging 8.0 rebounds per game, and tied for first on the offensive glass with 3.8 rpg.
But seven of the top 10 ACC rebounders from last season graduated or left for the NBA, leaving Roberson a chance to emerge into a tier of his own. Although that would be great, Syracuse should have bigger hopes for Roberson.
The senior-to-be would occasionally flash a strong offensive game last season, and when he did, the Orange were difficult to beat. In fact, Syracuse was 10-4 in games where Roberson scored at least 10 points and a perfect 7-0 when the forward recorded a double-double. In his best game, Roberson scored 14 points and grabbed a Syracuse record 20 rebounds in a narrow 64-62 victory over Duke at Cameron Indoor Stadium. Without that win, the Orange wouldn’t have made the NCAA tournament (and maybe shouldn’t have anyway).
Far too often, Roberson would disappear offensively, though. During an end of the year skid that saw Syracuse lose five of its final six games, the forward averaged just 4.8 ppg and 4.7 rpg. In the second round of the ACC tournament, he had just four points and two rebounds versus Pittsburgh.
Although he played well in the NCAA tournament, Roberson couldn’t muster much offense again in the Final Four against North Carolina, as he scored just two points, going 1-for-3.
As previously mentioned, the senior-to-be was a great offensive rebounder, but unfortunately, his force on the offensive glass was sometimes sporadic. And when he didn’t rebound offensively, Roberson didn’t have an impact on the score sheet. Syracuse didn’t run any plays for its centers or power forwards last season, so they had to create their own scoring, usually off of offensive rebounds.
Coach Jim Boeheim might need to think about changing that this season.
Syracuse is losing its top three scorers from a year ago, and it wasn’t exactly like the Orange were blessed with a lot of offensive talent on last year’s team. Once again, scoring depth is the biggest concern for Syracuse.
Sophomore-to-be Tyler Lydon is probably going to be the team’s leading scorer. He was a solid sixth-man and played major minutes despite coming off the bench. Graduate transfer John Gillon averaged 13.2 ppg with Colorado State last season, so as a point guard, the hope is he can be this team’s compass like Michael Gbinije was. That’s a tall order, and even if he is, that’s not enough scoring.
The rest of the roster, in terms of providing scoring, is unknown. There are high expectations for freshman Tyus Battle, Matthew Moyer and Taurean Thompson, but there is no guarantee they make a strong impact in their first season. Transfer Paschal Chukwu averaged just 2.6 ppg with Providence two years ago. And the other returning players, DaJuan Coleman and Franklin Howard combined to score 6.5 ppg last season. Howard, who’s a guard, shot just 28.6 percent. Neither can be counted upon for offense.
That’s why Roberson’s emergence as a bona fide scorer is so important for Syracuse this season. He seems to know it too. Over this summer, the forward has done his best to continue working on his offensive attack and building his strength in the weight room.
“When I’m attacking the rim, if I’m playing somebody that’s maybe a little bit bigger than me, I think now I do a lot better job of holding my own, pretty much,” he said last week according to Syracuse.com. “That’s a huge reason why I lift. I’m able to finish a lot better through contact and I think that’s made a huge difference in my game. That’s why I want to continue to get stronger.”
Syracuse will need a stronger, more assertive Roberson to be a Final Four contender again. Unless a couple of freshman emerge to replace Malachi Richardson, Boeheim will have to find a way for Roberson to be heavily involved offensively.