When offseason’s are quiet when they are not expected to be, fans begin to talk. The Syracuse Orange men’s basketball program has been elite for the last five to six years. Each season being a top 25 team and for the most part top ten.

The unexpected departures of Tyler Ennis and Jerami Grant have most Cuse fans preparing for a letdown in 2014. They only have two recruits incoming. Chris McCullough who just received clearance and Kaleb Joseph the only point guard on Syracuse’s roster.

Many would have expected Syracuse to go after a late signee or to secure a graduate transfer. Teams that reach this late tend to create more problems for the upcoming season.

This may have been a light year for Syracuse recruiting but they still have a nucleus to work with. Trevor Cooney showed signs of promise throughout the Syracuse season, even though he took a brunt of criticism from fans. The fact of the matter is, he was a first year starter as a sophomore after receiving hardly any playing time the season before. Struggles are bound to happen for any sophomore. Cooney will surely be working to develop more off the dribble moves to keep defenders guessing.

Michael Gbinije will also be a junior. The versatile wing will be leaned on this season. As the season wore on last year he started to become a reliable component for Syracuse. Boeheim even started to give him more minutes especially when Cooney wasn’t producing.

For both Cooney and Gbinije they have the maturity to excel this season. Both are listed as juniors but each sat out a season. Gbinije through his transfer from Duke and Cooney as a redshift freshman behind a plethora of Orange guards, including Triche, Dion Waiters, and Michael Carter-Williams.

The Orange also have senior big man Rakeem Christmas who is a very steady force inside. He knows his role and is a force defensively. Around the country there are not too many strong big men so expect Christmas to be a shining inside presence this year.

The rest of the Syracuse lineup remains a question mark. Will DeJuan Coleman return healthy and finally become a player the Orange foresaw when they signed him out of high school? He could be a big boost to the interior for the Orange.

Besides those four players the rest of the Orange will be secured by sophomores and freshman. Almost none of last year’s freshman saw the court. Tyler Roberson was the exception and his minutes were scarce.

Roberson showed enough athleticism to garner instant minutes but lacked the on court demeanor needed to play heavy minutes. That will change this year. Roberson could be the next in line of Syracuse sophomores to explode from their freshman to senior seasons.

Ron Patterson and BJ Johnson are the huge question marks. They’ll get their share of minutes, likely of the bench. Syracuse’s bench performance over the last five to six years has been one of the main reasons they have remained a top 25 team. Last year’s bench production was the exception, as Boeheim kept a limited lineup.

But in years past he has relied on a key six man to spark the offense. Jerami Grant was the person last year before DaJuan Coleman got hurt, Kris Joseph, Dion Waiters, Scoop Jardine, Andy Rautins, etc. have all filled that role.

I’m not as low on this 2014 season as publications are stating. Points offensively have never been a consistent reliability with Syracuse. That won’t change this season. They’ll have their typical slides of inadequate shooting slumps. But look across the country. This offseason for many college programs has been a train wreck. Players are jumping ship more than ever. This is coming off a season that college basketball parity was the highest it’s been in quite some time.

An athletic wing is still there with Tyler Roberson over Jerami Grant. Roberson may even be a better shooter than Grant. McCullough is surely an upgrade over Baye Keita. CJ Fair was great as a Syracuse Orangemen but his strengths were maximized deep into ACC play. Teams knew his go to dribble and strong left hand. Sets that Syracuse ran were timed out perfectly by teams such as NC State, Boston College, and others.

It became painful to watch how teams knew Syracuse’s limitations offensively.

Coming into 2014 no team will have a clue how to guard Syracuse. The only thing they know is Trevor Cooney is a three point shooter. Cooney seems like a prototypical Syracuse four year guard. Fans love to hate him but he’ll only get better year to year. You would have graded him most improved sophomore in the country if you remembered his horrendous limited minutes as a redshirt freshman compared to last year.

Publications are looking at what Syracuse has lost and not the program. Talent has left and been replaced each of the last six seasons. This year will be no different and has the makings of the 2010 team.

Syracuse was written off as a non Top 25 team after losing Paul Harris, Jonny Flynn, and Eric Devendorf. No one expected Wes Johnson, Scoop Jardine, and 5th year senior Andy Rautins to flourish.

Not knowing who this Syracuse team will rely upon offensively is going to boost this 2014 team. Losses will happen but look for Syracuse to be a dangerous tournament team.

With the bevy of 2015 recruits locked in, the future is only looking brighter for Syracuse. Imagine seniors Gbinije and Cooney paired with current talent and the 2015 recruiting class? Keep the Orange gear out fans, it’s not time to hide yet.


You must be logged in to post a comment.