2013-14 College Basketball Season Preview: Syracuse

Written by Paul Banks of the Washington Times, David Kay and Peter Christian of the The Sports Bank. Send Paul an e-mail here: paulb05 AT hotmail DOT com.
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Syracuse Orange (Last Year: 30-10, 11-7 in Big East)

2013-14 Projected Depth Chart:

C: DaJuan Coleman (Soph)/Baye Moussa Keita (Sr)

PF: Rakeen Christmas (Jr)/Tyler Roberson (Fr)

SF: C.J. Fair (Sr)/Jerami Grant (Soph)/B.J. Johnson (Fr)

SG: Trevor Cooney (Soph)/Michael Gbinjie (Soph)/Ron Patterson (Fr)

PG: Tyler Ennis (Fr)

Gone: PG-Michael Carter-Williams, SG-Brandon Triche, F-James Southerland

2013-14 Outlook:
It still feels wrong to call the Syracuse Orange members of the ACC, but I guess I’ll get over it at some point. Syracuse is loaded with talent up front, but with the team’s starting backcourt moving on, there are holes to fill at guard.

Leading the charge for Jim Boeheim is senior forward C.J. Fair, who led the Orange in scoring last season. Fair is a versatile threat on offense as he has a smooth stroke from the perimeter, can power dribble to the bucket, and is explosive at the rim. His length and athleticism also make him the perfect fit for the bottom of Syracuse’s patented 2-3 zone.

Likely to join Fair in the starting frontcourt is Rakeem Christmas and DaJuan Coleman. Christmas has failed to live up to the lofty expectations that surrounded him coming out of high school. He is limited with his offensive game, but has shown the ability to be a shot-blocker/rebounder/defensive asset.

Coleman had a disappointing freshman campaign that was hampered by a meniscus injury. He brings more physicality to the paint and gives the Orange a decent low post scoring option which the team really lacked last season. Improving his body and conditioning in the offseason should make him a more vital piece for Syracuse.

Jerami Grant replaces James Southerland as the team’s sixth man, and like Southerland did last year, Grant should see starter minutes. Like Fair and Christmas, Grant’s length and athleticism are ideal for the bottom wing of a 2-3 zone. Baye Moussa Keita brings experience off the bench behind Coleman in the middle and is an energy player who has been a serviceable reserve since his freshman season.

Even with all the talent returning up front, Boeheim brings in three talented freshmen who will likely have to wait their turns before cracking the rotation. Power forward Tyler Roberson was a top-40 recruit in the 2013 class, while small forward B.J. Johnson finished in the top 100. With those guys in the mix, Syracuse has one of the deepest frontcourts in the nation and will be able to mix and match numerous different rotations. 6-10 freshman Chinoso Obokoh has decided to use a redshirt for this season since he wouldn’t sniff the floor and is still raw in his all-around game.

The biggest question mark is how Boeheim replaces his starting backcourt of Michael-Carter Williams and Brandon Triche. A lot rests on the shoulders of Tyler Ennis, who was one of the top point guard recruits in the country. Syracuse needs him to be a true floor general from Day 1 since he is the only true point guard on the roster. He can score the ball but is also a terrific creator and play-maker.

The off guard position comes down to Trevor Cooney or Duke transfer Michael Gbinije. Cooney was the only reserve guard last season and is known as a three-point shooter, but due to a lack of depth, he will likely be forced to play the point for brief stints. Gbinije barely saw the floor during his freshman year with the Blue Devils, but is a former top-30 recruit who is another lengthy, versatile wing for Boeheim to utilize. Freshman Ron Patterson may factor into the equation as well and could see the occasional turn at point guard.

This might be the deepest team Jim Boeheim has had at Syracuse in terms of the length, athleticism, and versatility at forward, which, as every college basketball fan should know, is what helps makes his 2-3 zone such a force. The real key is how quickly Ennis takes over at the point and who emerges as shooting guard. As we learned last season with the Orange’s huge March turnaround and trip to the Final Four, you can never count out Syracuse and that will once again be the case as the program moves to the ACC.

Player to Watch: C.J. Fair, SF
The smooth lefty might be one of the more under-the-radar players heading into this season. I’ve been a huge fan of his since his freshman year and not just because he rocks a headband. Fair does a little bit of everything on the floor, but it will be his leadership that needs to shine through on this young Syracuse team.

Key Non-Conference Games:
  • 11/25 vs. Minnesota (Maui Invitational)
  • 11/26 vs. California/Arkansas (Maui Invitational)
  • 11/27 vs. Gonzaga/Dayton/Baylor/Chaminade (Maui Invitational)
  • 12/3 vs. Indiana (Big Ten/ACC Challenge)
  • 12/15 at St. John’s
  • 12/28 vs. Villanova

  • Predicted ACC Finish: 2nd

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