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ACC Basketball Preview: Syracuse

The Orange lost a lot from last year's team. Jim Boeheim has retooled with 2 top recruits, but there are still a lot of question marks on this team, especially on offense. Another freshman PG comes in, but how long will it take before he's comfortable enough to lead the team? If they can find enough scoring, the talent is there for another successful season.

Jared Wickerham

Last season: 28-6 (14-4), 2nd in ACC, KenPom #16, RPI #13

Projected Starters:
Kaleb Joseph, PG - 6'3" 165, Freshman
Trevor Cooney, G - 6'4" 195, Junior
Tyler Roberson, F - 6'8" 212, Sophomore
Chris McCullough, F - 6'10" 220, Freshman
Rakeem Christmas, C - 6'9" 250, Senior

Other contributors:
DeJuan Coleman, C - 6'9" 255, Junior
Michael Gbinije, SG - 6'7" 200, Junior
Ron Patterson, G - 6'2" 200, Sophomore
B.J. Johnson, F - 6'7" 185, Sophomore
Chinoso Obokoh, C - 6'10" 215, Redshirt Freshman

There aren't many top teams in the nation that lost more from last year than the Syracuse Orangemen. There was top scorer C.J. Fair, top rebounded Jerami Grant and top playmaker Tyler Ennis. That is 3 of the top 4 scorers, 3 of the top 4 rebounders and nearly half of the teams assists. It is also nearly a third of the team's total minutes played last year. That is a lot of production to replace, and is the main reason why Syracuse is ranked around #23, after finishing the regular season last year at #12.

Another problem for the Cuse is the status of DaJuan Coleman. After starting 12 games last year, Coleman missed the rest of the season with a knee injury. That is essentially the 2nd lost season for the talented junior, and there is no way to know what he will be able to provide this year. He may not play at all, or he may be a rotation guy by the end of the season. It's 50/50, according to him.

Obviously, other programs (such as Kentucky and Duke) retool year in and year out. In recent years, Syracuse has been no different, losing a number of players early to the draft. This includes Michael Carter-Williams, Johnny Flynn, Dion Waiters and a few others. However, the lost of a 4 year starters like C.J. Fair is tougher to account for.

Jim Boeheim has done a solid job of replacing the lost talent, bringing in two top-50 players in McCullough and Joseph, but combined with the unknown status of Coleman, there are a lot of question marks for the Orange heading into the season.

Everybody knows what Cuse is about defensively, with the 2-3 zone. With Christmas on the interior, they are going to be stout inside. And McCullough is far more advanced defensively than offensively at this point. But scoring is going to be a problem. The leading returning scorer is Cooney, and while he is a deadly shooter, he hasn't really shown an ability to get his own shot or create opportunities for others. Joseph has a lot of potential, but his consistency could be an issue as a freshman PG.

And will Boeheim be able to find any interior scoring? Ideally, Coleman is the guy to provide that, but his status is simply unknown at this point. Roberson and Johnson are both talented youngsters who didn't play much last year. Both are highly athletic wings, who are still developing their offensive game.

Gbinije (the G is silent) could be the wild-card for the Orange. The former Duke transfer is very tall for a guard and has the ability to play both inside and out. He played just 15 minutes per game last year, and averaged just 3.4 points per game. Those numbers are both going to have to go up this year if the Orange are going to be successful.

Jim Boeheim is famous for using a short rotation. That will not change this year, because this team simply isn't very deep. Syracuse always manages to get off to hot starts while Boeheim figures his team out. By the time ACC play begins, they should be humming along as usual. But a deep NCAA tourney run will depend largely on the development of the two freshmen and the ability of Gbinije to provide a big scoring punch.