Syracuse's season can be best described as up and down. The Orange struggled at the beginning during a stretch in which they faced primarily cupcakes in the Carrier Dome, yet grabbed the national spotlight with a win over an overrated Michigan State squad at MSG. Cuse started Big East play strong, but then hit a rough patch which saw them lose four straight including a glorious drubbing at the hands of Seton Hall in the Dome. After the infamous Scoop Jardine point shaving scandal took the focus away from its play on the court and threatened to derail its season, Cuse righted its ship, finishing out the conference season strong and earning a 3 seed in the NCAA Tournament. However, Syracuse once again failed to play to its seeding, losing in the second (third) round of the NCAA Tournament to fellow Big East foe Marquette.
Syracuse returns almost everyone off the team that finished fourth in the Big East with a 12-6 record and 27-8 overall mark. They're the preseason favorite to win the Big East.
Can the Orange live up to expectations?
Graduating: Rick Jackson (13.1pts, 10.3rbds, 2.5blks, 2.2asts)
Early Entry: None
Rakeem Christmas 6'9" C #19 Scout #27 Rivals #19 ESPN
Michael Carter-Williams 6'5" SG #33 Scout #29 Rivals #20 ESPN
Trevor Cooney 6'3" SG #73 Scout NR Rivals #64 ESPN
Syracuse loses only one player, however, he was their best player and was certainly the key to their success. Rick Jackson was their only interior presence. He was their second leading scorer, leading rebounder, and leading shot blocker. He was even third in assists. Jackson was a huge piece to the puzzle and replacing him will not be easy. There were rumors of both Dion Waiters and Dashonte Riley transferring, but so far neither has been confirmed and are likely just part of the Cuse hype/panic machine.
Syracuse returns a solid bunch of players. I'm not the biggest fan of their team, because I think the players are overrated, but I'm going to try and stay as objective as I can. They have an experienced backcourt pair in fifth year senior Scoop Jardine and junior Brandon Triche. Kris Joseph will most likely start at the three spot. He was expected to make a huge leap to All-Star last year but he struggled at times and often disappeared. It's unclear who will start at the four and the five next year. Boehiem stubbornly started Fab Melo almost every game last year, but yanked him immediately because Melo sucked despite everyone thinking he'd dominate from day one. One strong game in the Big East Tournament has made believers out of everyone again but I'm not convinced, yet. Still I'd expect Melo to get the nod at the five. It's unclear who will start at the power forward spot held by Rick Jackson last year. He can try and go big with Keita, go small with Fair or insert Southerland or Jones at the three and slide Joseph to the four. None of these are ideal. Best case would be that Christmas is able to come in right away and play the four but this is doubtful despite his high ranking. Waiters and Riley also are available as subs off the bench.
Syracuse brings in a highly touted recruiting class. This strong class will provide additional depth to an already deep team. Of course Boehiem rarely uses this much depth preferring to stick to an eight man rotation.
- Rakeem Christmas: The big center chose the Orange over Georgetown. The last big man to do so has had a pretty crappy career so far so hopefully the same fate befalls Christmas. Cuse fans expecting him to step in and replace Rick Jackson right away are going to be sorely disappointed. He's a very good shot blocker, but has a very limited offensive game. He did not progress offensively from his junior year the way most were hoping. He also might not have the lateral quickness to play on the wings in the back of the zone.
- Michael Carter-Williams: Williams is a big time scorer. He shoots the ball very well and has a decent handle. He needs to improve strength and his defense. The question is will he be able to break into the rotation with Scoop, Triche, and Waiters ahead of him?
- Trevor Cooney: This is the only one of the three I have seen play in person. He played at the Capital Classic back in April. I was not impressed. He did not look like a Big East player. He's only a catch and shoot player and has nothing more to his game. He cannot create his own shot. And in the one game I saw him he couldn't even shoot it well. He does not posses the athleticism to defend high major guards and he has poor ball handling skills. He most likely will not see any major time on the court this year, if ever.
Syracuse is the preseason choice to win the Big East this year. They certainly should be in the top four at the end of the year. I, however, do not like them to win the Big East crown. There are two bits of history working against them. For starters, Syracuse always does better when expectations are lower and often fails to live up to lofty expectations. Second of all, the team picked by most to finish second in the conference is Louisville and Syracuse has lost six straight games to the Cardinals and hasn't beaten them since the first year they joined the conference. If the race comes down to those two, Louisville is going to win.
I certainly do not think Syracuse is going to dominate this year. They're good; they're not great. Expect another 20+ win season but no real major success no titles and a Sweet 16 at best. Too many head cases and one dimensional players.
And a whiny coach.