Finally! The Syracuse Men’s Basketball season is almost here. Coming off an 18-14 record a year ago, the Orange are poised to be one of the top teams in the ACC. In the preseason poll, SU was ranked No. 6 in the conference. So, what will Syracuse’s final record be? Each of the Fizz staff members answered that question and made their arguments. Check them out:
Thomas Shults: (15-11)
This Syracuse team isn’t as good as it was last year with Elijah Hughes. While Alan Griffin should be able to account for most of Hughes’ lost production, he won’t be able to attack the rim like Hughes. Instead, Griffin should continue to allow head coach Jim Boeheim to space the floor with three shooters on the floor. Besides Griffin, Buddy Boeheim and Joe Girard will likely improve at the top of the 2-3 zone this season. It can’t be any worse than last year. And, if it’s clearly not working again, Boeheim can slide freshman Kadary Richmond to the top of the zone, and let Buddy play small forward. Unlike recent seasons, I’m not too concerned with the play of the bigs. Bourama Sidibe started to prove himself toward the end of last season, and Marek Dolezaj should continue improving at the steady rate he has his whole career. This team isn’t great, but there should be internal improvement across the roster.
Gill Gross: (17-9)
I’m anticipating a fundamentally sound team this year, with improvements in the zone, rebounding and overall interior strength. What worries me is the potential lack of raw skill in isolation and pick and roll situations. Syracuse’s offensive talent won’t match up with the ACC’s top teams, minimizing the threat of some of the explosive top-25 upsets we’ve seen in recent years. On the other hand, Syracuse hasn’t been able to take care of business consistently enough against the conference’s middle class: I expect that to change this season. The Orange are firmly in the second tier of the conference, behind Virginia, Duke, UNC, Louisville and Florida State. I’m thinking 4-1 in the non-conference, 12-8 in the league.
Jaron May: (17-9)
On one hand, this team is worrisome. Who is going to take over for Elijah Hughes and be “the guy” for Syracuse this year? How does COVID-19 impact the development and cohesion of the new guys? But on the other hand, this team is really really exciting and intriguing. I think the Orange have a really good shot at surprising many and being a talented bunch. Joe Girard and Buddy Boeheim will need to step up as the primary scorers on offense. Alan Griffin will be a fun addition to the starting five and add even more shooting ability. Then, defensively Marek Dolezaj, Quincy Guerrier, and Bourama Sidibe should be pretty solid. All three of them will need to work on not getting in foul trouble every game, but I believe in them. Plus, Syracuse doesn’t have a terribly hard schedule this season. The non-conference slate is much easier than last year, and the ACC is somewhat down in terms of talent this season. Syracuse will have some surprising wins and surprising losses, like usual, but ultimately I think this team can put up a respectable record, be towards the top of the conference, and not have to sweat it out on Selection Sunday.
Matt Bonaparte: (17-9)
This will be a building year for Syracuse basketball. Elijah Hughes’ absence will prove to be an issue that this team might take time to solve. The scoring he had for this team is ] what kept it competitive, without it, either the Orange needed to find a replacement or that defense has to be much better. Buddy Boeheim, Joe Girard III, and Alan Griffin all have the potential to be great scorers for this team, but until they do it, it’s going to take some convincing to say Jim Boeheim’s squad will sit around the 20 win mark. Regardless I think this is a very important year for SU, one in which Joe Girard gets much better, and one in which some of those newer guys prove to be a successful crop of young stars.
Brad Klein: (16-10)
The schedule should only grow as Syracuse is struggling to add to their season slate with the hurdles of the global pandemic. So, there should be more wins for the Orange on the horizon in the expanding non-conference schedule. However, without Elijah Hughes, there might be some growing pains for SU early in ACC play. Jim Boeheim seems pleased with his team’s development and the addition of freshman Kadary Richmond and Illinois transfer Alan Griffin, but the offensive identity is not clear without a shot creator. Syracuse will not succeed without Bourama Sidibe taking a massive step up, which the center did at the end of last season offensively and defensively. But if the Orange can’t count on Sidibe to control the glass, it’ll be a long season.
Ian Unsworth: (17-9)
Syracuse should finish upper half of the ACC. However, the Orange are without the heart and soul of their 2019 group, Elijah Hughes. This usually means one of three things for college basketball squads. A returning player could fill that scoring role, a freshman phenom could be the next big thing, or the offense is going to struggle. Unfortunately for Syracuse, it looks like it’s going to be option number three. Illinois transfer Alan Griffin is talented, but I’m not sure if he has elite shot creation skills yet, and Joe Girard is just a little too inconsistent for my liking. Right now, everyone else is a role player on this SU team. Hopefully, Jim Boeheim places an emphasis on team basketball this year, and runs a little more offense than in years past. The zone is going to remain the same, unless Quincy Gurrier starts over Marek Dolezaj and grabs 12 boards a game. Teams are going to eat SU up on the glass, and unless Bourama Sidibe turned into Rakeem Christmas over the summer, dominate in the paint.
In terms of the record itself, I see Syracuse mostly taking care of business. Rutgers and Buffalo back-to-back are the two early-season barometer games where we’ll get a feel for what to expect going forward (either good or bad). Just watch out for the trap games, especially the second time around (Clemson and NC State come to mind) and that is when Syracuse will need someone to step up and carry the scoring load. Also watch out for Miami, which returns over two-thirds of its production from last year, and GT, which brings back its starting guards. Other than that, expect SU to lose to the usuals…UNC (twice), Duke, FSU, Louisville, and Virginia.
John Eads: (19-7)
This is a talented basketball team that returns a lot of production and with it, a lot of hype. I think SU finds a solid 8-9 man rotation with lineups that are successful at different schemes. Alan Griffin provides a huge boost off the bench, as does Quincy Guerrier who emerges for the Orange. I have Syracuse losing seven games, six in the ACC.
Rutgers will hold off SU in a popcorn-popping noncon thriller. In conference, Syracuse loses at UNC, at UVA, at NC State, at Louisville, and at Duke. Despite the likelihood of no fans in the Carrier Dome, I have the Orange finishing undefeated at home. If this team can improve defensively and do just enough on the offensive side of things to fill the void lost by Elijah Hughes, this 2020-21 SU basketball team will be special and firmly into the NCAA Tournament.
Harrison Singer: (15-11)
Well, it’s safe to say the 2020-2021 will be an interesting one, for several different reasons. From a Syracuse perspective, it will be fascinating to see how the team makes up for the loss of recent NBA-draftee, Elijah Hughes. It wasn’t long ago when SU last had to deal with losing a player of Hughes’s caliber. Many people would say the last time was when Tyus Battle departed after his junior year, and that makes perfect sense. The thing is, when Battle left for the draft, the Orange knew it could primarily rely on Hughes to shoulder the scoring load. Now, without Hughes, SU doesn’t really have that same bona fide scoring option, heading into this season. Buddy Boeheim and Joe Girard seem poised to receive plenty of opportunities, but it obviously remains to be seen what will come out of that. Perhaps, not having a clear-cut number-one option could force the Orange to spread the love a bit – as opposed to running such an isolation-heavy offense, centered around its primary scorer(s). All told, this may be the year we see Syracuse do just that. However, a great deal hinges on the progression of sophomore Quincy Guerrier, and the experience of Marek Dolezaj and Bourama Sidibe as well. Additionally, if any of SU’s newcomers can find ways to make a difference, right off-the-bat, it could help propel the team to a place it hasn’t been in years. Back in the 2013-2014 season, Syracuse ranked No. 2 in the ACC standings, which was the program’s first year in the conference. Since then, SU has failed to rank above No. 6 (of 15 schools). Sure, the Orange has still had some erratic postseason success in that time, but wouldn’t it be nice if SU could make a potential run – in either the ACC or NCAA Tournament – easier for itself, by having a strong regular season? I think most fans of the Orange would sign up for that. However, when looking at SU’s season schedule, it’s hard to imagine that happening this year. All in all, we should know pretty quickly, based on how SU fairs in its opening games – against Rutgers, Buffalo and Notre Dame – what kind of team Syracuse fans will have to work with.