Syracuse basketball is off and running, and it’s still far too early to say how dangerous the Orange will be in March. Wins like the effort against St. Bonaventure and Elon prove just how wide the spectrum is on what the eventual destiny could be on this season. There’s no doubt SU has far superior athletes to both, and when the dust cleared the Orange had (fairly) easy victories. But not before a few sweaty moments in the second half.
Going back to the St. Bonaventure game, credit them for the fight they had inside the Carrier Dome. But you also have to wonder if the Orange will make fans nervous and frustrated throughout the season. There were young guns like Malachi Richardson and Tyler Lydon that had veteran-type impacts. If those two young players become fundamental pieces of the offense and avoid the freshman swoons, the ceiling is high for SU.
But it’s impossible to think everything will go smoothly. Trevor Cooney and Michael Gbinije needed some help, and it looks like they may have some in Richardson and Lydon. But if those two young pieces falter, is there enough to stop the bleeding in what should be another carnivorous ACC.
Right now it’s clear even the oddsmakers don’t quite know what to make of the Orange. According to Betway.com SU has the 26th best odds in the country at winning the national championship. That would put them in the same range as arch nemesis UConn and conference rival NC State.
UNC, Maryland and Duke are at the top of the table in the ACC for cutting down the nets this year, and all three of those teams are stacked with top-end talent. Virginia, Notre Dame, Louisville and Miami also have better odds than the Orange of a championship right now.
But so much can change over the course of the year, and it speaks to the challenges the Orange will face. Losing Jim Boeheim for a stretch of games this season will be a hurdle to overcome. Lack of talent on the interior will also be a tough reality. With the ongoing cloudy status of Dajuan Coleman, who will be the bodies to man the post? Boeheim already seems content on letting his array of guards be snipers from the outside. The Orange were out rebounded by the Bonnies and out worked in second chance points. That speaks to a style of play SU may just have to accept.
There’s a lot of time to gel for this SU squad, and talent that could develop into a very dangerous foe. But without too much time left for Boeheim, every season takes on an urgent feel for the Orange right now. And this year could be filled with a lot of anticipation if the kids step up, or one with frustration if they don’t.