Infused Cuse’ Still Potent

Yes Jim Boeheim is still head coach at Syracuse, and looks like he can do it well into his seventies. Boeheim and assistant coach Mike Hopkins are coming off a gold medal aiding the USA team from the sidelines. Once again Boeheim seemed to spark Carmelo Anthony, who shot a blistering percentage from three point range.

The focus now swings to a monumental year for the Orangmen. Their schedule has been patched together little by little, and the traditional hot start should be expected. With their last season in Big East play will the Orangemen continue to be conference powers with a strong Louisville team in the way?

Jim Boeheim and his coaching staff have done an excellent job at recruiting. So much that maybe last season they had too much talent. A top sixty five recruit in Trevor Cooney decided to red shirt because of the Orangemen’s depth. McDonalds All-American Michael Carter-Williams hardly stepped on the floor, even though his minutes of play seemed justified for more.

Ruts would not occur often but when they did it often came from the upper classmen on the team involving Scoop Jardine or Kris Joseph. Especially Joseph who seemed to of taken a few steps back from his sophomore and junior seasons as a senior. It was hard for the team to depend on Joseph and that became critical in the NCAA tournament when minutes and the nucleus of forward scoring shifted to James Southerland and CJ Fair.

The infusion of talent is always going to be there at Syracuse. Combining those skills and getting the zone to stay active a full season is the main question. Syracuse comes in yet again as a top ten contender in 2012 and should be.

Lanky big man Rakeem Christmas had a typical big man freshman campaign under Boeheim. He was thrown into the fire and took the heat from his coach as if he were an upper classmen. Much like Fab Melo had a vast transformation, expect the same from Christmas this season. Someone is going to need to contend with Gorgui Dieng, and Christmas will get the majority of minutes to defend him.

He did an admirable job in an increased role in the NCAA tournament, and seems to have been working hard in the off-season in preparation of a big role. Syracuse does have DaJuan Coleman and Baye Mousse Keita to rotate various lineups. Keita will likely see twelve to sixteen minutes a game strictly as a rotation guy.

DaJuan Coleman’s role is one of high interest. If he comes in with an understanding and in proper shape, Boeheim could go back to the Onuaku/Rick Jackson days. Placing Coleman and Christmas in the starting lineup. That may be down the road in the season though, as Syracuse will need offense from those two if that were the case. Christmas may be ready to step up offensively but can he remain effective defensively?

Instead of having the size on the backside of the zone, expect Syracuse to use their wing men in CJ Fair and James Southerland as starters. Even though Brandon Triche is the senior on this team, CJ Fair is the leader. This team will go as deep as Fair can take them. With limited shot attempts, Fair always seems to fill up the statistic box. His shot attempts will easily exceed last years. Off the bounce and inside fifteen feet Fair is hard to stop. His points per game average may be the highest since Wes Johnson was at Syracuse.

Southerland is one of those journeyman Syracuse players that has been buried behind talent most of his career. Mookie Jones and graduates are now gone, leaving Southerland a chance to shine. Much like Preston Shumphert started to come alive his junior year as an Orangemen, the same could be related to Southerland. He is athletic and tall at 6’8. Last season Boeheim was forced to go smaller at times and Southerland played the role fine, and is a presence as a weak side shot blocker.

Southerland just needs to refrain from shooting too many threes, as it hurts Syracuse defensively in transition.

Where Syracuse is going to have strength yet again is at the guard positions. Brandon Triche has been rotated in and out of the Syracuse lineup too much the last two seasons. A player can not get into proper rhythm in college basketball by being substituted as much as Triche was. Boeheim had to get Dion Waiters in, and also play Jardine, so it was a tough spot for Triche.

Now he will get thirty plus minutes a game and be the voice of this team. Triche has drawn high praise from Jay Bilas who stated on national televised games he believed Triche was the best Syracuse player, and that was with Dion Waiters on the roster. Triche is a hot and cold type player, but doesn’t settle. He will take the ball to the hoop and does not get over zealous with an outside jumper. Expect Triche to continue the trend of Syracuse seniors going in the second round of the NBA Draft.

Triche will be hungrier than any Orangemen with strong focus the whole year. He was on the teams that lost to Butler in the Sweet 16, Marquette, and last years elite eight.

The true gem of the team will be Michael Carter-Williams. He dazzled in limited action last year and could be on his way to the NBA with an all around year. Williams won the skills competition as a McDonald’s All American, and is a better passer than Scoop Jardine. Point guards that can run the zone offense off transition defense can get themselves in rhythm just off that.

Unlike Jardine who sometimes would get himself in trouble in half court offense, Carter-Williams has the size (6’5) and speed to run a half court offense efficiently.

Bench production will remain solid for the Orange. Trevor Cooney will likely be the first man off the bench to spell the backcourt. Incoming freshmens DaJuan Coleman and Jerami Grant will get significant minutes for typical freshman. Grant played in the USA under 18 team this summer and has ascended the top 100 rankings from when Syracuse received his commitment. If Southerland struggles, Grant could get minutes in the high teens.

Reloading is what Syracuse has continued to do the last three seasons. Ever since the tandem of Eric Devendorf, Jonny Flynn, and Paul Harris left, the team has had to deal with replacing three guys almost every year.

Boeheim knows he has been close to having National Title seasons in 2010 and last year. The moment will come and it could be this year. If sophomores Rakeem Christmas and Michael Carter-Williams flourish combined with the steady play of Triche and CJ Fair, there is no doubt this team can return to the Elite 8.

From there it would be matchups. 1987.…1996.….2003. The trend of ten years or under back to the national championship has to happen in 2013.


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