For the first time in seemingly a long time, Orange fans are blindly heading into a college basketball season. The Orange, which has been a staple in the top-ten polls for a couple of years now, is found at the cellar of the poll, often ranking in at No. 24 or even going unranked. This is due, in part, to the lack of experience on the entire team. Trevor Cooney is the only returning player to average more than ten points per game, and fans know that even asking for that may be a stretch with the way he closed the year. But all of the questions will be answered on Friday night, when the team embarks on its season in the Carrier Dome against Kennesaw State, a Georgia university that only moved into Division I in 2009.
Coach Boeheim and the Orange come out rolling, something that they have struggled to do in recent years. The team is able to pull away from the Owls early in the first half, who finished a sad 6-25 last season. The Owls have size, unlike Adrian, which the Orange dominated on the glass last weekend. The team had 24 offensive rebounds against a small lineup.
But, the game isn’t going to be about Kennesaw State hanging around, it’s going to be about Syracuse capitalizing on it’s easy opponent. Trevor Cooney will find his stroke from three and resemble a somewhat consistent shooter. Rakeem Christmas shows why he is the unquestioned leader on the team and dominates the glass. He also doesn’t get into foul trouble and fills the stats sheet with blocks.
In addition, the Orange have a big enough lead that the starters don’t have to play down the stretch, and fans get a glimpse of the sophomores that were buried on the depth chart last season. BJ Johnson, Ron Patterson and Tyler Roberson look like legitimate scoring threats and the zone defense moves as one cohesive unit, forcing turnovers at the top of the key and trapping opponents down low. The Orange cruises to a season-opening victory leaving fans excited for the road ahead.
It’s LeMoyne 2.0, except it counts.
Syracuse finds a way to lose to an Owls team that has no business hanging around with the Orange, let alone winning the game. Cooney is, well, Cooney. He misses countless looks from three and finds no rhythm. Christmas’ defense is way too aggressive and he finds himself in foul trouble early. This means Chinonso Obokoh comes off the bench and looks raw, allowing the Owls’ big men to score inside the paint. DaJuan Coleman is surely missed.
In addition, Kaleb Joseph and Chris McCullough look like true freshman and struggle to find consistency throughout the game. Joseph tries to do too much with the ball and ends up taking too many shot attempts and forcing passes. McCullough shoots for a low percentage, as he has through the exhibition games and ultimately becomes a non-factor.
The Orange finds no consistent scoring down the lineup and struggles to put points on the board the entire game. The zone is porous, as the forwards overcommit on the wings, leaving the anchor left alone to defend the rim. Fans leave the Dome in utter disbelief, wondering if the team will miss the NCAA tournament for the first time since 2008.
Prediction: Syracuse 72, Kennesaw State 45
Posted: Jason Weingold