I had to Google "troy nunes" to have any idea how this blog title came to be. But "Troy Nunes Is An Absolute Magician" was about the first 100 results. Congrats, TNIAAM: You beat the Internet.
Obviously Syracuse fans expect a lot of their Orange, year in and year out. I would imagine a Final Four appearance counts as a good year. But how does your fan base feel about last year's results?
Syracuse has had a couple teams in recent years that we thought were good enough to make it to the Final Four. Last year's team wasn't one of them, and yet they're the ones who actually did it. Once the griping over the Michigan loss dissipated, we looked back on the season as a huge success and a slight overachievement. That said, and this is a real credit to just how good Boeheim's late renaissance has been, our expectations are extremely high for the program because of it. This year's team might not look as good on paper, but then again, last year's team didn't look as good as it's predecessor either.
What's the biggest piece you've lost since last season?
The obvious answer is Michael Carter-Williams, who came into the season as a rising quality player and ended it as a lottery pick, but I wonder if he's the guy we'll miss the most. It may end up being Brandon Triche, who started every game in four seasons for the Orange. He's being replaced by freshman Tyler Ennis, who is getting talked up by Boeheim unlike any player since Jonny Flynn. If Ennis lives up to the hype, we might not miss Triche's silent leadership. However, freshman phenoms always have a way of missing the mark in some way and I'm willing to bet there will come a time we'd want some upperclassman leadership up top.
Who is the player who needs to step up the most this year?
C.J. Fair is clearly the star of the team and Tyler Ennis will be playing 38 minutes a night, but if you're looking for a player who needs to step in there and become No. 3, it's Rakeem Christmas. Syracuse big men have a way of making The Leap at some point. Arinze Onuaku, Rick Jackson and Fab Melo all went from so-so to solid in the span of six months. Christmas's SU career has been enticing at times but mostly disappointing. He hasn't been much of an offensive threat and he's left a lot to be be desired defensively. Baye Keita outhustles him and DaJuan Coleman might make The Leap before he does. It's a critical year for the junior cause if he can't step up, he's going to get left behind.
Who is the player UVa fans ought to look out for the most?
C.J. Fair. Honestly, if he would have gone pro this past year, no one would have blamed him. He's quietly put together one of the more impressive Syracuse careers of the past decade and the fact that he's back for another year, this time as the unquestioned best player on the squad, might put him in an elite class. He's quick, versatile, able to beat you with an outside jumper as well as a quick drive to the hoop. The kind of guy who wants the ball in crunch time and also hustles back to play solid 2-3 zone defense on the wing. Be afraid.
What's your outlook for the season? What's a success, what's a failure, and what's something you can live with?
I've given up trying to predict what a season will look like in November. I feel like the last 4-5 seasons, whenever I think they're going to take a step back, they end up in the top ten, and whenever I expect them to dominate, they fall off. Here's what I do know. Thanks to the last couple years, Syracuse finally has expectations back to where we, well, expect them to be. Used to be the Sweet Sixteen was considered a good year. No more. Now it's Elite Eight or bust (not really, but really). With a shaky frontcourt and a bunch of unproven freshmen, it could take some time for this team to gel, but since they wear the name Syracuse on the front of the jersey, I fully expect to compete for the ACC crown and get a high seed in the NCAA Tournament. As of this moment, I can say that anything short of the NCAA Tournament's second weekend is a failure, whether SU fans admit it or not. As for what I can live with, just that Syracuse basketball comes in and proves itself against its new rivals, something its football counterpart is having a tough time with.