The first official event of the Syracuse basketball season takes place on Friday, October 7th when Jim Boeheim‚Äôs men‚Äôs squad and Felisha Legette Jack‚Äôs women‚Äôs team head east on I-90 to Rochester to participate in ‚ÄúMonroe Madness‚Äù at Blue Cross Arena. The coed event headlines a showcase for members of both teams to interact with fans and grow their respective brands while also showing off their basketball skills.
The men follow that with the ‚ÄúOrange Tip-Off‚Äù on Friday, October 14th in the JMA Wireless Dome. After that, it‚Äôs ten days of practice before the exhibition opener for SU against Indiana PA in the Dome on October 25th. From there, another exhibition a week later on November 1st against Southern New Hampshire in the Dome wraps up the Orange‚Äôs month-plus long training camp and preseason. So, that’s the quick synopsis of what‚Äôs going on, but what is really going on during this time period for Boeheim‚Äôs squad.
Well, it starts with positional battles, who earns spots in the starting lineup. Second, is still recruiting. Last year SU got two commitments in the month of October from guys who are on campus right now, Maliq Brown and Chris Bunch. That does not seem like it will be the case this year with the rumor mill ice cold and dead quiet on the SU front. Class of 2023 members are picking their schools every day now, and not once is SU being mentioned among a guy’s final list of contenders, let alone taking an official visit.
So, what do those lineup battles look like? Based on a tweet from Jon Rothstein a couple of weeks ago, as well as the consensus from Syracuse-area media, it seems as if Judah Mintz is likely to be in the starting lineup on opening night against Lehigh on November 7th if all goes to plan. Furthermore, there were reports that Mintz was promised to start as a freshman, one of the main reasons he committed to the Orange back in the Spring.
So, that leaves two more starting spots open. It can all be assumed that Joe Girard will start at guard, with Mintz likely handling the ball and the senior playing more off-ball in his fourth season. The other guarantee is Jesse Edwards at the center, who was terrific before suffering a season-ending wrist injury in February. That leaves two spots for three, or maybe four guys to compete for, all with different skill sets.
Benny Williams is the most experienced wing as a sophomore, and his freshman season did not go exactly as planned, He had flashes, but as a slasher on offense, and an athletic and lanky aggressor on defense, he did not fit SU‚Äôs all-offense, no-defense plan last season. Then there‚Äôs the freshman.
Justin Taylor, Chris Bunch, and Maliq Brown all offer different skill sets. Taylor is the pure shooter who has more guard tendencies than the other but has the size to play on the wing. Bunch is another shooter, but is better at driving and attacking the basket, and the better athlete. Then, there‚Äôs Brown who is a bruiser inside and has the physical presence to compete with the big boys to help Edwards.
So, Boeheim has a decision to make. Does he go with the ‚Äúexperience‚Äù of Williams, or insert two freshmen into the mix on the wing and potentially start THREE FRESHMAN on opening night. That would be bold, but we‚Äôve seen bolder from a head coach who is entering his 47th season at the helm. Only time will tell what Boeheim has up his sleeves and for SU fans to complain or cheer about.