Another year with question marks and another year where the Fizz takes a crack at predicting the Orange’s final regular season record. After falling short of expectations last year, the Fizz staff mostly sees Syracuse as a bubble team this year.
Tim Leonard (21-10)
Syracuse is going to overachieve expectations because unlike previous groups they are a group willing to pass the ball and also have plenty of capable shooters. Perimeter defense and rebounding will likely be troublespots again. The lack of depth at center outside of Sidibe who hasn’t stayed healthy is concerning and the pressure on starting point guard Jalen Carey, who has been careless with the ball at times, isn’t great either. Expect Elijah Hughes to be tremendous this year though. A clear All-ACC selection. With him and a strong freshman campaign from double-double machine Quincy Guerrier, the Orange offensive product will be much more aesthetic pleasing. In his 44th season this will be the 34th time Jim Boeheim’s team has won 20 games.
Gill Gross (20-11)
Joe Lunardi will be sweating again. Syracuse surpasses expectations in ACC play, but a tough early-season schedule will hurt the young team’s record. The pendulum swings towards offense this season, with improved shooting and a more balanced attack. Three point defense is going to be a problem with Jalen Carey and Buddy Boehiem at the top of the zone, instead of Frank Howard and Tyus Battle. Bourama Sidibe stays healthy and represents a substantial offensive improvement over Paschal Chukwu. Elijah Hughes is ready to be the number one scorer, but isolation efficiency won’t be a strong suit. Quincy Guerrier should step into the Oshae Brissett role nicely. Buddy Boeheim, one of the lone bright spots last season, will continue his useful role. Syracuse will have a competent second unit for the first time in a while, led by Brycine Goodine and Joe Girard. The big mystery here is Jalen Carey. I’m finding it incredibly difficult to predict how the first-year starting point guard will fair, given his limited opportunity last season. These are guard-driven times and Carey is the X-factor. Syracuse makes the tournament, and they’re dangerous once they get there.
J.D. Raucci (18-13)
There’s no doubt this team has a ton of question marks heading into the season. Who’s going to be the No. 2 scorer behind Elijah Hughes? Will the Orange be able to recoup the losses of Tyus Battle, Oshae Brissett and Frank Howard? How is the five-man freshmen class going to adjust to the college level? Usually that many questions about that many players in key spots would lead to a pretty pessimistic outlook on a season, but for some reason, I have a feeling this team’s got something kind of special in the tank. Elijah Hughes has the ability to be a go-to scorer and could even blossom into an All-ACC caliber player as the season progresses. Couple that with excellent perimeter shooting (the Orange shot a combined 43% from distance in its two exhibition games against Daemen and Carleton) from the likes of Buddy Boeheim, Joe Girard III and Brycen Goodine and SU could turn into a spread-em-out matchup nightmare. My biggest concern is how the ‘Cuse will defend with so many new faces being added into the zone and an untested and injury-prone rim protector in Bourama Sidibe and if they can take care of the basketball with so much youth at guard. Luckily, I think the Orange actually might actually have enough firepower to keep pace if the defense struggles and they turn the ball over too much. The bumps and bruises will come in the early parts of the season and through the slog of conference play after the calendar flips over, but this just feels to me like a team that can surprise some people yet again. Just like seemingly every year they’ll be placed firmly on the bubble as Selection Sunday rolls around, but if they do get in, a win or two in the tournament isn’t entirely out of the question.
Harrison Singer (17-13)
For all intense and purposes, we’re getting a new-look Syracuse basketball team this year. Tyus Battle is gone, which means the love should be shared more than in years past. Syracuse needs to be more fluent on offense and work the ball around, which may yield some growing pains with a considerably younger team this season. Returning players such as, Jalen Carey, Buddy Boeheim and others will be relied on more, in helping Elijah Hughes lead the offensive charge. Newcomers like Brycen Goodine, Quincy Guerrier and Joe Girard III will hopefully make their presences felt as well. This makes crystal balling SU’s upcoming basketball season more of a guessing game than anything. Personally, I’d expect the Orange to play more as a team on offense – after all, it certainly might have to. However, even if SU finally starts to shy away from its historically isolation-heavy offense, it might still take time for the young players to settle in. Opening against Virginia won’t do SU any favors, but the Orange should be able to nab wins in its following games against Colgate, Seattle, Cornell and Bucknell. Additionally, we’ll certainly get a feel for the legitimacy of this year’s team in its games at Georgia Tech, Georgetown, Virginia (Jan. 11), Notre Dame and Louisville. Right now, it feels a tad premature to say the Orange will walk out victorious in most of those matchups, if any of them at all. All told, Syracuse’s squad is young this year, which could either spell a refreshing change of program culture, or a season laden with development and growing pains.
Jaron May: (21-10)
There are a lot of questions surrounding this team and it’s hard to get behind them without the answers. In previous seasons, the rosters were pretty consistent from year-to-year. This year, there are a lot of new faces and a lot of young faces. The Orange don’t have Tyus Battle or Oshae Brissett anymore, which means Elijah Hughes is going to have to be the go-to man. His supporting cast consists of freshmen and players who have seen minimal minutes in previous seasons, besides Buddy Boeheim. If Syracuse is to have a good season, the freshmen need to step up and not play like freshmen. Plus Bourama Sidibe needs to improve greatly because SU has no interior presence right now. The Orange are beneficiaries of another easy non-conference schedule, but it is pretty common for them to drop a couple of games before ACC play. Then once they get into the conference slate, they go up against some tough competition, like usual. There will be a couple surprising wins and a couple surprising losses, but SU will come out with a winning record. A final record of 21-10 will put the Orange on the bubble again and Syracuse fans will have to painstakingly wait for Selection Sunday to roll around.
Thomas Shults: (19-12)
This Syracuse team isn’t as talented as last year’s squad but it should be a whole lot more fun. Instead of guards passing the ball along the wing before hoisting up contested threes as the shot clock expires, the Orange should run-and-gun on offense. That means up-tempo possessions with plenty of threes for Joe Girard, Buddy Boeheim, Elijah Hughes, and others. On defense, the zone will suffer due to youth, but the top of the 2-3 should be fine with Jalen Carey and Boeheim. Carey needs to take a big step forward after a turbulent freshman season. If he doesn’t improve Brycen Goodine could see plenty of playing time.
With that said, Carey is already a tremendous defender, and the flashes he showed last season lead me to think he shows off his supreme athleticism and becomes a reliable point guard. While the guards will be exciting, Syracuse’s lack of depth at center probably keeps Jim Boeheim up at night. I find it hard to believe that SU can compete with top-end ACC teams with Sidibe playing 20-25 minutes a game. Marek Dolezaj and Robert Braswell make up an intriguing power forward position even though they could play hide-and-seek by taking cover behind a street light. There will be times when this team is incredibly frustrating, but Boeheim once again works his voodoo magic to reach the first round of March Madness.