Syracuse Basketball Preview: #67
Overall Rank: #67
Conference Rank: #10 Big East
2008-09: 28-10, 11-7
2008-09 postseason: NCAA
Coach: Jim Boeheim (799-288 at Syracuse, 799-288 overall)
Even Syracuse cannot lose Jonny Flynn, Eric Devendorf and Paul Harris and get better. Usually the Orange will bring in yet another superb recruiting class and be back in the NCAA Tournament. Making the big dance is certainly the goal as always this year, but there is no super recruit who is ready to come in and make an impact and the Orange will be a far less talented team this year than they were last year.
Key Losses: G Eric Devendorf, G Jonny Flynn, F Paul Harris, F Kristof Ongenaet
Forward DaShonte Riley highlights the group of incoming freshmen. The 6-11 Detroit, Michigan native will be a dominating interior presence in the years to come, but he is a little raw and will need some time to develop. And that works out fine in an Orange frontcourt that is full of talent. James Southerland is not as highly touted as Riley, but the 6-7 forward could work his way into the regular rotation at some point. The other incoming freshman is combo guard Brandon Triche, who may be pressed into action early. While the incoming freshmen might spend some time paying their dues, Wesley Johnson, a 6-7 transfer from Iowa State, is expected to contribute immediately.
The top three scorers may be gone, but Syracuse does not lack a scoring punch thanks to the return of Andy Rautins. Rautins only started ten games last year, but he is a superb outside shooter who managed to tally 10.5 points per game despite so much talent in front of him. The only problem with Rautins game is the fact that he is a pretty much just an outside shooter. Without Flynn or Harris driving to the basket, it may be more difficult for Rautins to find open looks this season. Mookie Jones only played in nine games last year and was redshirted, but the 6-6 wing is a dynamic scorer who could be the answer at the small forward position.
The focus on Coach Jim Boeheim’s team will switch to the frontcourt this season due to the return of Arinze Onuaku and Rick Jackson. Onuaku averaged 10.3 points and 7.3 rebounds last year and could average a double-double during his senior season. Rick Jackson turned into a perfect complimentary player to Onuaku last season. He may not score as much or grab as many rebounds, but Jackson will certainly do plenty of both. Where Jackson really shines is on the defensive end of the floor. While the opposing offense worries about getting past the 6-9, 275 pound Onuaku, Jackson will come from the weak side and block a couple shots per game. Kris Joseph had a promising freshman campaign and should be a capable backup after tallying 3.4 points and 2.4 rebounds in limited action last season.
Who to Watch:
Scoop Jardine did a decent job running the point on a part-time basis two years ago, but he missed all of last season. He has been working hard to become a leader and a better ballhandler and he must turn into a scoring threat as well as a quality point guard if Syracuse hopes to go back to the NCAA Tournament.
If Jardine can manage to be a productive point guard and be a halfway decent scorer, the Orange have the weapons to make it back to the big dance. Syracuse has some great players in the frontcourt who will now step into the limelight and that should give Rautins plenty of open looks while the opposition attempts to clog the paint. However, the lack of depth on the perimeter is a concern and that could prove to be the difference between the NCAA and the NIT.
Projected Post-season Tournament: NIT
Projected Starting Five:
Scoop Jardine, Sophomore, Guard, DNP last season
Andy Rautins, Senior, Guard, 10.5 points per game
Wesley Johnson, Junior, Forward, DNP last season
Rick Jackson, Junior, Forward, 8.3 points per game
Arinze Onuaku, Senior, Center, 10.3 points per game
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