#4 Syracuse Men's Basketball Preview

Syracuse Orange

Overall Rank: #4
Conference Rank: #1 Big East
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2010-11: 27-8, 12-6
2010-11 postseason: NCAA
Coach: Jim Boeheim (829-293 at Syracuse, 829-293 overall)

At times last year, Coach Jim Boeheim went ten deep with his Syracuse squad. The battle for playing time will be fierce with nine of those players returning and a few newcomers who are more than capable of seeing major minutes. The backcourt will be led by the experienced duo of Scoop Jardine and Brandon Triche. Jardine has developed into an all-around great player instead of just a point guard. He is a smooth distributor, but Jardine can also score. His outside shot came around last season and that really opened up attacking lanes for him to get to the hoop and score or find an open teammate. Triche is one of those scorers. After averaging 11.1 points per game as a sophomore, Triche is ready to emerge as a major scorer and he has the talent, especially if his outside shot starts falling more consistently.

Who’s Out:
Rick Jackson is a big loss. The 6-8 forward averaged a double-double last season and nobody else on the team came close to nearing his 10.3 rebounds per contest. Fortunately for the Orange, they have an amazing amount of talent in the frontcourt that can at least help out on the glass.

Who’s In:
One of those frontcourt players is freshman Rakeem Christmas. At 6-9 and 222 pounds, Christmas is ready to battle in the paint in the Big East. His offensive game may not take the conference by storm this year, but he is a strong shot blocker and a fine rebounder. Any offense that he can provide as he moves to power forward will just be a bonus this year. Michael Carter-Williams is another highly regarded recruit. He is an extremely versatile player who can handle the ball like a point guard and attack the basket like a small forward. Trevor Cooney might be the best shooter on the team, but he will have a tough time finding too many minutes right away.

Who to Watch:
The loaded frontcourt is highlighted by small forward Kris Joseph. The senior has improved every year he has been at Syracuse and he could emerge as the star of this balanced squad. Joseph averaged 14.3 points, 5.2 rebounds, 2.2 assists and 1.5 steals last season. At 6-7, he can even block some shots with his athleticism. Where Joseph has developed the most is in his scoring ability. He will use his size to finish above the rim, but he has also developed into a relatively reliable shooter, and that has made him a tough matchup for most opposing defenders. Forwards C.J. Fair, Mookie Jones and James Southerland are all experienced players. Fair is the best rebounder of the bunch, but Southerland and Jones can stretch the defense with their ability to hit the outside shot. Whatever the situation, Coach Boeheim has options. The center position will again be manned by Baye Moussa Kieta and Fab Melo. Melo had a disappointing freshman campaign and will miss some of his sophomore campaign due to legal issues, but he is a superb talent who can go from averaging less than ten minutes per game to averaging more than ten points per game.

Final Projection:
Syracuse has a ton of options in the frontcourt. The depth on the perimeter is a little younger. With Jardine and Triche starting, the only other returning guard who made any impact last season is sophomore Dion Waiters. Waiters proved to be a very effective wing during his freshman campaign and he can play a lot of minutes at the two or three spot. Waiters was the only guard who came off the bench last season and did a fine job providing an offensive spark. He will have more competition this year from the newcomers, but Waiters is the experienced option and can fill in whenever Triche or Joseph need a rest. With the addition of Carter-Williams and Cooney, this backcourt is much deeper than it was a year ago. The frontcourt is a year older and wiser and that will turn the Orange into the favorites in the Big East if the big men can develop into scoring threats and not just rebounders and shot blockers.

Projected Postseason Tournament: NCAA

Projected Starting Five:
Scoop Jardine, Senior, Guard, 12.5 points per game
Brandon Triche, Junior, Guard, 11.1 points per game
Kris Joseph, Senior, Forward, 14.3 points per game
Rakeem Christmas, Freshman, Forward, DNP last season
Fab Melo, Sophomore, Center, 2.3 points per game

Madness 2012 NBA Draft Rankings:
#12 Rakeem Christmas
#23 Fab Melo
#28 Kris Joseph
#52 Michael Carter-Williams

Madness 2011 Men's Basketball Recruit Rankings:
#10 Rakeem Christmas
#28 Michael Carter-Williams
#58 Trevor Cooney

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