Syracuse, fresh off a season in which they won the Big East, garnered a number one seed in the NCAA tournament, but ultimately fell short of their goals when they lost to Butler in the Sweet 16, came into this year’s campaign with an air of uncertainty. Gone are senior leaders Andy Rautins and Arinze Onuaku, as well as first-team All-American Wes Johnson. An improved bench was expected to step into the starting roles abandoned by those three, and a stud freshmen class was expected to keep the Orange in the top echelon of college basketball. However, despite an early 4-0 start, questions are already arising about the state of this year’s squad.
Syracuse has padded its schedule with the usual patty-cakes, but it’s how they’re winning that has followers worried. After it’s most recent victory, a 63-60 escape over William and Mary, the same William and Mary who went only 22-11 in the Colonial Athletic, and then lost their top scorer from last season. We knew that the rotation, so seamless and effective last year, was going to take some time to figure out and set in, but thus far, there is little to no cohesion.
Aside from Rick Jackson, who has been an absolute beast down low, (albeit against mostly undersized opponents), and Scoop Jackson, who has stepped into his starting role very nicely, the team hasn’t bonded together very nicely. Fab Melo, the highly touted freshmen big man from Brazil, fouls more than Dickie V can call him a diaper dandy, and Dion Waiters is still struggling to find his rhythm against the longer, more athletic college defenses. With time, these freshmen will regain their touch and show the ability that made them some of the top recruits in the country.
In the meantime, I have the utmost confidence that Jim Boeheim will continue to tinker with his lineup until he finds a way to get this star-studded team playing like the top ten team it can be. As the schedule begins to get more difficult, with games against Michigan, an improving N.C. State, and then a December 7th date against pre-season Final Four favorite Michigan State, I can only hope that he finds a way soon.
About the Author
Written by Curt Bell