As Syracuse basketball has officially completed its media day and first preseason event with another on the docket for Saturday, it’s a perfect time to analyze the Orange’s roster in full and come away with what needs to happen for SU to have a successful season this year. So, let’s start with the fact that Syracuse needs its returning wings to make big jumps this season.
Last year, Benny Williams and Chris Bell started the majority of the games at the forward position, but in Adrian Autry’s new vision for this team let’s separate the Orange’s roster into three categories: guards, wings, and bigs. SU has four players who fit into that criteria and are returning based on where they like to play. So, let’s start with Williams.
“Benny Williams beat Justin Taylor off the dribble and dunked,” syracuse.com’s Donna Ditota wrote on Friday. “Later, he caught the ball on the wing, attacked, and dunked. He also got basically all of the Orange team’s rebounds.”
“Williams and Bell were both first-time starters last year,” syracuse.com’s Mike Waters said last week. “They each had their struggles, but they also had games in which they flashed considerable potential. Williams, who lost his starting job midway through the season, capped his year off with a 17-point, seven-rebound performance in the ACC tournament loss to Wake Forest. Bell was knocking down 40% of his 3-pointers until hitting the freshman wall.”
“Also, Chris Bell showed an ability and a willingness to attack the basket, something he rarely did last season. And he did it more than once,” Ditota said.
If both of those players are improved, and doing a lot more than standing on the wing hoping for the ball to come to them, and instead dictating action and interplaying with guys like Judah Mintz, JJ Starling, and Chance Westry, then SU could be dangerous.
Another couple of guys to look out for are Justin Taylor and Quadir Copeland, who played off the bench mostly last season, but Autry has said he wants to have a deeper bench and rotation in his first season as head coach, and those guys could make a big impact, especially Copeland.
“Quadir Copeland scored twice on the 7-foot-4 McLeod, which is something,” Ditota wrote. “Once on a spin move on the baseline, another time on a fadeaway in the lane. He also finished a Mintz lob in transition — maybe the highlight of the scrimmage?
“Copeland made one of the few 3-pointers that went down in the scrimmage,” Ditota continued about the sophomore,” Autry said during Friday’s media session that Copeland has really worked on his jump shot during the off-season. His 11 points led all scorers.”
Waters also added in last week on what the sophomores could provide: “Taylor shot 39% from the 3-point line as a freshman. Copeland might be better suited for playing man-to-man where his versatility will help him switch and guard different positions.”
Overall, the Orange cannot be carried by their guards again like last season. It’s unsustainable and if Syracuse wants to get back to the NCAA Tournament for the first time since 2021, it needs contributions from its whole roster to get there, and that means improvements from its wings in a significant way.