Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Syracuse: 2008-2009 Team Preview

2007-2008 Team Record: 21-14, 9-9 Big East (8th)

Key Losses: Donte Greene (17.7 ppg, 7.2 rpg)

Key Returnees: Paul Harris (14.5 ppg, 8.2 rpg, 3.3 apg), Jonny Flynn (15.7 ppg, 5.3 apg)

Newcomers: Kevin Drew, Mookie Jones, Kris Joseph

Last season, the Orange were a pretty talented team, winning 21 games and going .500 in the Big East despite having a six-man rotation as a result of the season-ending knee injuries suffered by Andy Rautins and Eric Devendorf. The only guy they lose is leading scorer Donte Greene, who was a first round pick after his freshman year, although the loss of Greene may be a blessing in disguise. He was a 6'11" gunner, who shot almost eight 3's per game while only making them at a 34% clip (29% in conference play), taking away touches from some of Syracuse's other talented players.

Syracuse returns a lot of talent, especially in their back court. It starts with Jonny Flynn, the 6'0" (looks more like 5'10") point guard who is as exciting to watch as any guard in the conference. Flynn has range well beyond the college three and can knock it down consistently off the dribble or the catch, but he is also extremely quick and strong, and can get in the paint easily. He is fearless attacking the rim (and athletic enough that sooner or later he is going to embarrass a center by dunking on them), but, with shooters Devendorf and Rautins back, he is unselfish enough where he can create open looks for them off of his penetration. The return of Devendorf should actually help out Flynn, because Devendorf can play some point, which would take pressure off of Flynn (he averaged 39.2 mpg in Big East play). Devendorf was off the the best start of his career before tearing an acl against Tennessee State. He was averaging 17.0 ppg and 3.9 apg. Rautins will also be a key addition, most likely coming off the bench, as he is a great shooter with range which will help spread the floor.

The Orange also return Paul Harris, who is (still) a reliable jump shot away from being a lottery pick. Harris, a 6'4", 228 lb wing, is as strong as anyone in the conference. He is a fantastic rebounder and can get to the basket when he pleases, usually by just muscling his way through weaker defenders. Arinze Onuaku had to red shirt a season after knee surgery, but as a sophomore was a pleasant surprise for Jim Boeheim. Onuaku blossomed into one of the better centers in the conference, using his tremendous bulk (6'9", 258 lb, although he looks closer to 275 lb) to carve out space. He has a soft touch around the basket as well, and gets a ton of easy points off of offensive boards and drop-offs. Scoop Jardine and Kristoff Ongenaet are solid role players. Ongenaet really impressed me down the stretch with his hustle - he should complement Onuaku well. Also expect sophomore Rick Jackson and freshman Mookie Jones and Kris Joseph to get some playing time.

Outlook: Syracuse's biggest issue last season was depth - they couldn't really go past their sixth, maybe their seventh man. With Rautins and Devendorf returning, and the addition of two freshman (Jones and Joseph), the Orange's line-up looks much deeper than it did a year ago. The problem for Syracuse this season is that the Big East is loaded. They could feasibly finish 10th in the conference and still make the NCAA tournament. They aren't as good as the top four, but will battle it out with the like of Marquette, Villanova, and Georgetown for the 5th-10th spots. My prediction: 8th and a tournament bid.


Anonymous said...

How is syracuse 8th I think they have as much talent as anyone in the big east

Marc said...