- Fran Fraschilla, College Basketball
Some coaches are comfortable with a lean rotation in which every player knows his role, and the minutes that he is expected to play is consistent every night. If things are going well, the team is winning and there are no injuries, it makes for a happy team with great chemistry. But that lack of depth often means that a season can be fragile. One or two injuries or a midseason transfer can crush a team's NCAA hopes.
Here are five teams in the Top 25 that are contenders for their respective conference championships but have taken major hits to their talent and depth levels this past season. They will need new players to emerge and be a little lucky, as well, to stay healthy.
Jim Boeheim loses Tyler Ennis, C.J. Fair, Jerami Grant and Baye-Moussa Keita to the NBA draft and to graduation, and even there is still enough talent on the roster to make a run at the ACC title, there are more questions than answers for Syracuse this coming season. That is unusual.
It's likely that freshman Kaleb Joseph will man the point guard position. It will be hard for him to top Ennis' freshman season, but he certainly has the opportunity and the tools to be one of the league's best freshmen next season. Junior sharpshooter Trevor Cooney, who cooled off as last season unfolded, needs to shoot the ball with more consistency and find other ways to contribute. Michael Gbinije, the Duke transfer, will see time at both guard spots.
Up front, Orange fans are still waiting for Rakeem Christmas -- who was a Philadelphia high school basketball prodigy -- to become a dominant player. At worst, he should be a double-figure rebounder this coming season in the middle of the 2-3 zone. Six-foot-10 freshman Chris McCullough brings the size, athleticism and energy to be very effective on both ends of the court for Boeheim. If junior big man DaJuan Coleman is recovered from injuries that sidelined him last season and is in condition, he should help as well.