Adrian Autry has been Syracuse’s head coach for approximately eight months, and throughout that time frame, he’s been asked a number of questions, had a few light quizzes, and a couple of harder quizzes, and passed them all so far. But now, with Colgate, a team that has beaten Syracuse two years in a row coming to the JMA Wireless Dome, Autry’s first test has arrived.
In the last two years, the Raiders have come into the Dome and shot the lights out against Syracuse’s 2-3 zone defense. Autry has passed recruiting and transfer portal tests, landing high-caliber high school players and replenishing a roster that lost two of its three highest scorers last season with players in the portal. He’s also passed leadership tests, as players have spoken highly about his skills, and he’s also had to discipline players, as Benny Williams will return after serving a three-game suspension for a violation of team rules.
But, on the court, Autry has not been asked this tough of a question yet. Matchups against New Hampshire and Canisius were not walks in the park, but Syracuse was a double-digit favorite and won each of those games by double-digits. It was not a clean 80 minutes of basketball by any stretch of the imagination, as Autry himself said his team did not have proper energy against the Golden Griffins.
In terms of defense, Syracuse has attempted to play man-to-man but had to resort back to zone at times when things were not going well. In the end, the Orange were able to use their talent to eventually pull away and secure the victories, but by no means is Autry’s squad a finished product, and they are far from it at that.
When it comes to what is next for SU, Colgate presents an interesting matchup. The Raiders are 1-0 on the year, barely squeaking past Brown, 72-70 in their season opener on November 6th. Both teams will be plenty rested coming into the matchup, with eight days between games for Colgate and six for Syracuse.
The Orange will have to defend the three-point line at all costs, as they cannot let the Raiders get hot and gain all the momentum by making 15+ long balls. Strong and active ball pressure in man-to-man scenarios will help SU, as will the increased length of this year’s roster as compared to the last two seasons when Joe Girard III was starting at the top of the zone. How Williams is integrated back into the lineup and how much he plays will be an interesting storyline to follow.
Autry’s first exam is upon us, and how Syracuse plays against Colgate will be a strong indicator of how ready it is for its trip to Hawaii next week, and then more power conference matchups after that. But, pass or fail, the first-year head coach still deserves the benefit of the doubt by the way he’s handled everything in the program since he took over, and that is no small feat.