Adrian Autry had two main tasks when he took over as head coach: keep the young talent Syracuse had while bolstering the roster with talent from the transfer portal. For the most part, he’s done that. While it’s not official yet, it appears as though Judah Mintz is the only member of last year’s freshman class who will not be back this coming season.
The other departures were veterans Jesse Edwards, Joe Girard, Symir Torrence and John Bol Ajak while JJ Starling, Chance Westry, Naheem McLeod and Kyle Cuffe took their spots on the roster.
So, is it different? Absolutely. Is it better? No, in fact it’s probably worse. Mintz, Edwards and Girard leave about a 45 point per game gap, plus 15 rebounds and nine assists per contest coming off of a team that not only missed the NCAA Tournament, but wasn’t even good enough to get an NIT bid.
The story of last season was the trio of Mintz, Edwards and Girard needing to perform for Syracuse to have a chance to win game in and game out.
As for the players replacing them, Starling is the only one that you can be confident is a good player at the collegiate level. He averaged double figures on a bad Notre Dame team last year and has the pedigree as a former five-star recruit. Figuring he will at least approximate Mintz’s production is certainly fair.
The center position is full of questions. McLeod has been a backup for two years at Florida State and has never scored more than five points per game. Mounir Hima has also been a backup for two years, one at Duquesne and last year at SU. He showed plenty of athleticism and promise as a rim protector, but not much on the offensive end, plus constant foul trouble. Peter Carey is a mystery after redshirting last year and suffering an injury. The same can be said for true freshman William Patterson.
The two guards Syracuse brought in both have talent. Westry and Cuffe are former four star recruits, Westry just last year. However, both are coming off season ending knee injuries and neither has played much at the collegiate level. Westry has appeared in only 11 contests, while Cuffe has just six minutes under his belt.
As for the returning players, ask yourself if there’s anyone you can point to and say, “that guy will be a key piece next year.” The answer is no. There’s talent, but also a lot of hoping. Was the Benny Williams we saw at the very end of last year real or will he revert back to his inconsistent self? Will Chris Bell and/or Justin Taylor live up to their billing as elite three point shooters while also not being liabilities in the defense and rebounding departments?
Can Maliq Brown grow his game and become more than just a rebounder and occasional scorer around the rim? Can Quadir Copeland develop into more than a defensive energizer?
Then, there might be the biggest of all: can Autry coach? We know he can recruit. He’s the one who convinced Mintz and Williams to come, plus recruited and kept Elijah Moore and got Donnie Freeman for the class of 2024. The X’s and O’s part of the game remains to be seen, and nobody can have an answer to that until games are played.
Questions, questions and more questions. Does Syracuse have the talent to be a top half of the ACC team and challenge for postseason basketball? Sure. However, a lot of those questions need to be answered in the affirmative for that to happen. It could, but temper your expectations when it comes to the product on the court next year and the eventual final record.