With only nine scholarship players eligible to suit up this season, the Orange have a very thin roster and cannot afford to lose anyone for an extended period of time with an injury, especially in the backcourt.
Brandon Triche and Michael Carter-Williams will team up to start at guard. Triche is the team's top returning scorer and capable of handling the basketball or playing off the ball since he shoots it well from deep. Carter-Williams goes from being the fourth guard last year to the primary ball-handler. At 6-6, he is a unique talent for a point guard and a pure distributor, but must show the maturity to take over as the lead guy.
The only reserve guard is redshirt freshman Trevor Cooney. After sitting out last season, he will provide Syracuse with a sharpshooter capable of instant offense off the bench.
C.J. Fair will be asked to help lead the Orange this year as the only returning starter besides Triche. The athletic lefty has a nice mid-range game, but his explosiveness at the rim and length in Boeheim's 2-3 zone makes him most effective. Three-point gunner James Southerland brings added versatility to the frontcourt and will see plenty of playing time off the bench.
In the middle, freshman DaJuan Coleman will take over for Fab Melo. At 6-9, 288 pounds, Coleman is a beast inside and knows how to throw that big body around. He has great touch on the inside and brings a back-to-the-basket option for Syracuse that the team lacked last year. Baye Moussa Keita is an athletic, lengthy who will come off the bench. He runs the floor extremely well and can block shots in the middle of the Orange zone.
One guy to keep an eye on this year is Rakeem Christmas. The highly recruited big-man struggled out of the gates last season and never looked truly comfortable on the floor. He is far too skilled not to make a significant leap with his production as a sophomore. Freshman Jerami Grant (the son of former NBA'er Harvey; the brother of Notre Dame's Jerian Grant; and the nephew of Horace) adds more athleticism to the frontcourt. He attacks the glass and should fit in perfectly in the zone defense.
Syracuse already has a stacked 2013 recruiting class, and the team will also welcome in Duke transfer wing Michael Gbinije as well. He must sit out this season per NCAA transfer rules, but is allowed to practice with the team.
It honestly makes me extremely sad that this is the Orange's final year in the Big East. The conference simply won't be the same without this school. My feelings aside, Boeheim has a roster that fits his style of play on both ends. I think the development of Carter-Williams and Christmas, and how big of an impact Coleman can make right away will be the telling sign for how far the defending Big East Champs can go in March.
Player to Watch: Michael Carter-Williams, PG
Stuck behind Triche, Scoop Jardine, and Dion Waiters, Carter-Williams had to wait his turn, and now is time for him to break out which he is more than capable of doing. He has a well-rounded offensive game and is extremely dangerous in the open court leading the break. His length will also be a major asset at the top of that 2-3 zone.
Key Non-Conference Games:
11/11 vs. San Diego State (on deck of USS Midway Museum)