Skip to content

Top 25 Countdown: No. 4 Syracuse Orange

Oct 30, 2012, 9:00 AM EDT

spt-111017-cjfair

Throughout the month of October, CollegeBasketballTalk will be rolling out our previews for the 2012-2013 season. Check back at 9 a.m. and just after lunch every day, Monday-Friday, for a new preview item.

To browse through the preview posts we’ve already published, click here. To look at the rest of the Top 25, click here. For a schedule of our previews for the month, click here.

Last Season: 34-3, 17-1 Big East (1st); Lost in the Elite 8 to Ohio State

Head Coach: Jim Boeheim

Key Losses: Scoop Jardine, Kris Joseph, Dion Waiters, Fab Melo

Newcomers: Jerami Grant, DaJuan Coleman

Projected Lineup:

G: Brandon Triche, Sr.
G: Michael Carter-Williams, So.
F: James Southerland, Sr.
F: CJ Fair, Jr.
C: Rakeem Christmas, So.
Bench: Jerami Grant, Fr.; DaJuan Coleman, Fr.; Baye Keita, So.; Trevor Cooney, Fr.

Outlook: Jim Boeheim has done a lot of impressive things during his long and illustrious coaching career, but there may be no achievement greater than what he was able to accomplish last season. In a year plagued by scandal — The Dion Waiter transfer saga; the Bernie Fine scandal; Fab Melo’s eligibility, and legal, issues; a report of failed drug tests that were covered up. — the Orange were still able to finish the regulars season at 30-1 and make the Elite 8. And if Melo, the anchor of their 2-3 zone last season, had done his homework, who knows what could have ended up happening. The Orange lost just one game when he was in the lineup.

Melo is gone this season, as are three of Syracuse’s top four scorers from last season. But the Orange return quite a bit of a talent and a team that should be perfectly suited to playing Boeheim’s 2-3 zone.

The key to this season is going to be the development of Michael Carter-Williams. A top 25 recruit coming out of high school, MCW was buried on the bench for much of last season as Scoop Jardine, Waiters and Triche made up the perimeter rotation. As a sophomore, MCW will be asked to slide into the starting role, and there’s little reason to believe he won’t be able to thrive. From his size, to his handle, to his passing ability, MCW has been compared to Jason Kidd, and while that’s a tough comparison to live up to, it’s not that far off. He’ll make everyone on the team better because they’ll get open shots. With the combination of shooters on the perimeter and athletes around the rim that Syracuse has on the roster this season, it’s not crazy to think MCW could averaged 15 points and five assists this year.

While his back court mate is quite inexperienced, even for a sophomore, Brandon Triche is arguably as experienced as any player in the country, having started every game for the Orange for the past three years. He’s also the epitome of a team-player, sacrificing his minutes last season to allow Waiters more playing time without making a peep. He’s a combo-guard that defends, rebounds and (usually) is a knockdown three point shooter.

But most importantly, like MCW (who’s 6-foot-6), Triche is a bigger guard. He stands 6-foot-4, which means that, when teaming with MCW at the top of the Syracuse 2-3 zone, he’ll help create all kinds of problems for Syracuse opponents.

Expect redshirt freshman sharpshooter Trevor Cooney to be the third guard in this equation.

In the front court, Syracuse has a multitude of weapons and different looks that can be used. The most familiar roster for Big East fans should be CJ Fair, an uber-athletic, 6-foot-8 combo-forward who has had his fair share of poster-worthy dunks during his college career. Fair has also had some impressive performances in his two seasons with the Orange, but he’s struggled to find consistent minutes on the floor. He’ll get them this season, and should thrive.

James Southerland is the guy I expect to eventually start at the four. Like Fair, he’s athletic and, at 6-foot-8, lanky enough to cause serious problems in the 2-3 zone. Southerland is also a very good three-point shooter, meaning he’ll be able to help create space in the paint. Freshman Jerami Grant, another athletic, 6-foot-8 forward, should see minutes as well.

The biggest question mark for the Orange will be at the center spot, where Rakeem Christmas, a sophomore, and DaJuan Coleman, a freshman, will likely split minutes. Christmas and Coleman are both 6-foot-9, but where Christmas is long and a shotblocker, Coleman is much bigger, checking in around 280 pounds.What Boeheim has done the past two seasons with elite center recruits — Melo and Christmas — is to put them in the starting lineup but yank them just a few minutes into the game, going with a smaller lineup. It will be interesting to see if he does that with Coleman this season.

Whatever the case, if he decides to use them on the floor together, it may end up hurting the Orange defensively; neither is ideal to play the wing in the 2-3 zone. Individually, Christmas is the better defender while Coleman is better offensively and on the glass. Another lanky center, sophomore Baye Keita, will also see minutes up front.

Predictions?: I still think Louisville is the best team in the Big East, but Syracuse isn’t really all that far behind. Like the Cardinals, I think the Orange are going to be much better on the defensive end of the floor than on the offensive end. But the bottom line is this: all the players taking over bigger roles for this Syracuse team were highly-touted recruits, and a few of them — MCW, Christmas, even throwing Coleman in there — were ranked in the top 25 nationally. Boeheim has done a great job recruiting in recent years, and this is the season it will pay off for him.

Rob Dauster is the editor of the college basketball website Ballin’ is a Habit. You can find him on twitter @robdauster.

Latest Posts
  1. Pitt lands graduate transfer big man from Richmond

    May 24, 2015, 11:30 AM EDT

    alonzo nelson-ododa Getty Images

    Pitt added a big man who can play right away next season.

  2. Class of 2016 No. 1 Josh Jackson faces five-star guard Seventh Woods at UAA (VIDEO)

    May 24, 2015, 10:15 AM EDT

    2014 Under Armour Association Finals

    Two of the best in the 2016 class battle in the Under Armour Association.

  3. Academic issues expected to sideline St. John’s point guard for fall semester, maybe longer

    May 24, 2015, 9:00 AM EDT

    150524_Jordan_Rysheed Getty Images

    Already thin at the point, the situation becomes even tougher for first-year head coach Chris Mullin if this turns out to be the case.

  4. Former Providence center planning visits

    May 23, 2015, 9:51 PM EDT

    (AP) AP

    A Big 12 and a Big Ten program are among those due who have reached out to the 7-foot-2 Fairfield Prep (Connecticut) product.

  5. Monitoring physicality as important as the shot clock in increasing offensive production

    May 23, 2015, 7:32 PM EDT

    Tad Boyle AP

    Colorado’s Tad Boyle doesn’t like the proposed shot clock change, and he made a good point about the physical nature of college basketball today.

  6. UC Davis, head coach Jim Les agree to contract extension through 2021

    May 23, 2015, 5:28 PM EDT

    Jim Les Jim Les

    Les led the Aggies to a school-record (Division I era) 25 wins and their first Big West regular season title last season.

  7. Four-star 2015 power forward to visit Cal, Texas and Washington

    May 23, 2015, 3:45 PM EDT

    Scott Phillips/NBC Sports Scott Phillips/NBC Sports

    Noah Dickerson had previously committed to Georgetown and Florida.

  8. Max Bielfeldt down to three

    May 23, 2015, 2:00 PM EDT

    AP Photo AP

    The former Wolverine could remain in the Big Ten.

  9. Frank Kaminsky writes a farewell letter to Wisconsin fans

    May 23, 2015, 12:00 PM EDT

    150523_Kaminsky Getty Images

    The Wisconsin big man averaged 16.4 points and 7.3 rebounds per game in his last two seasons.

  10. Derrick Walton’s foot appears to be better (VIDEO)

    May 23, 2015, 10:30 AM EDT

    AP Photo AP Photo

    The sophomore guard missed the final 12 games of the season.

  11. Rashad Muhammad transferring from San Jose State

    May 23, 2015, 9:18 AM EDT

    AP AP

    He is the younger brother of former UCLA Bruin Shabazz Muhammad.

  12. Nevada lands transfer forward from the Ivy League

    May 22, 2015, 10:30 PM EDT

    image Getty Images

    Nevada landed an impact transfer that could help at guard after next season.

  13. Arizona announces 2015-16 non-conference schedule

    May 22, 2015, 9:15 PM EDT

    AP Photo AP

    Arizona will have some intriguing home-and-home games to go along with an in-season tournament.

  14. Cliff Alexander opens up on his suspension at Kansas

    May 22, 2015, 8:00 PM EDT

    AP Photo AP

    Cliff Alexander might have returned for his sophomore season if the NCAA had not been involved.

  15. Kentucky promotes former Auburn coach to assistant coach

    May 22, 2015, 7:00 PM EDT

    Tony Barbee AP

    Kentucky promoted a familiar face for the open assistant spot.

  16. Class of 2016 forward decommits from Nebraska

    May 22, 2015, 5:45 PM EDT

    keanu pinder

    Nebraska loses a commitment who could be headed elsewhere soon.

  17. Georgia, Mark Fox agree to contract extension through 2020

    May 22, 2015, 4:27 PM EDT

    Mark Fox AP

    Fox has led the Bulldogs to two NCAA tournament appearances in his six years as head coach, including last season’s 21-win team.

  18. Former Bradley guard to complete eligibility at Rutgers

    May 22, 2015, 2:40 PM EDT

    Darius Carter, Zach Brown, Omari Grier AP

    The Rutgers perimeter rotation may be crowded, but there’s plenty of room for contributions as the team won just ten games last season.

  19. North Carolina announces receipt of Notice of Allegations from NCAA

    May 22, 2015, 1:00 PM EDT

    AP Photo AP

    UNC now has 90 days to craft a response to the NCAA’s allegations.