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Last Season: 30-5, 15-3 (1st Big East), lost to Butler in the Sweet 16 of the NCAA Tournament
Head Coach: Jim Boeheim
Key Losses: Wes Johnson, Andy Rautins, Arinze Onuaku
Newcomers: Dion Waiters, Fab Melo, CJ Fair, Baye Moussa-Keita
- G: Brandon Triche, So.
- G: Scoop Jardine, Jr.
- F: Kris Joseph, Jr.
- F: Rick Jackson, Sr.
- C: Fab Melo, Fr.
- Bench: Dion Waiters, Fr.; CJ Fair, Fr.; Mookie Jones, So.
Outlook: If there is any coach in the country who you can take at their word when it comes to their players and their players' ability, it is Jim Boeheim. This is the guy that told everyone that Wes Johnson was a one and done player before he even coached him in a practice. This is the guy that was scoffed at when he said that his back court was better off with Brandon Triche and Andy Rautins than Jonny Flynn and Eric Devendorf. Both of those turned out to be undeniably true.
This season, the guy that Boeheim has been raving about is seven-foot freshman Fab Melo. Melo, a top 15 recruit nationally, is a guy that is at his best when he is on the block offensively. He has good hands and quick feet, which allow him to be an effective operator down low. He also has a nice little jumper out to about 12-15 feet. Defensively, he isn't known as a shot blocker as much as he is a space eater; 7'0", 244 lb is to a lot deal with in the middle of the Orange's 2-3 zone. Another aspect of Melo's game that has gotten people talking is how good of shape he is in. Listed at over 275 lb while in high school, Melo is now down to a svelte 244 lb.
Joining Melo up front will be Rick Jackson. Jackson is a guy I have always liked as a player. He's tough, scrappy, and workman like. He's not a big time scorer, but he does have a couple of post moves he can go to when necessary. Jackson rebounds the ball, blocks some shots, and posts the occasional 15 point game. After Jackson and Melo, the Orange big men are a bit raw. Sophomores DaShonte Riley, who is injured, and James Southerland, who is 6'8" but wants to be a three point shooter, didn't provide much last season. Baye Moussa Keita may be an option, and while he will block some shots and get some boards, he is still quite raw.
Boeheim's best option if he needs to sit Melo or Jackson may be doing what he did last season and sliding Kris Joseph over to the four. Joseph, who was third leading scorer for the Orange last season, is the guy that everyone is expecting to be the next Syracuse star. At 6'7", he's got the same kind of length and athleticism that Wes Johnson did last year. But where Johnson based his offensive ability off of his jump shot, Joseph is a slasher. He's got a nice first step and can get to the rim using either hand. He's a good finisher, an aspect of his game that will improve even more when he puts on some upper body strength. Once Joseph adds a jumper -- pull-up and three point -- to his repertoire, he will be a first round pick.
If Joseph does end up playing some four, freshman CJ Fair and sophomore Mookie Jones are likely the two guys that will be put in on the back line of that 2-3 zone. Fair isn't a guy with a ton of offensive polish, but he is 6'7" with long arms and some solid athleticism. He will be a nightmare in the zone because of his length, mobility, and athleticism. Jones, who stands 6'6", also has some length and athleticism, but his best attribute as a player is his long range jumper. He's tough to slow down once he's hit one.
The back court is where we will likely see the best positional battle on the Syracuse roster. Scoop Jardine and Brandon Triche, two guys that split time at the point last season, are both back again. Triche is a bit bigger than Jardine and more of a possession point guard, but Jardine -- who actually came off the bench last season while Triche started -- is a better scorer, a better creator for teammates (he was second on the team in assists last year), and takes better care of the ball. They actually would work well sharing a back court. The problem? Dion Waiters. Another top 15 recruit, the 6'4" Waiters has developed into a very well-rounded scorer. He will stick a three if you lay off of him, he can get to the rim and finish if you crowd him, and he has a developed mid-range game. He's also shown unselfishness and the ability to share the ball when he has talented teammates, although most scouting reports said that this deference disappears at the end of a game.
Syracuse lost a lot last season. Johnson, Rautins, and Arizne Onuaku were all very good basketball players. But with the incoming freshmen joining that back court and with Jackson and Joseph returning, the Orange should have a shot at winning this conference.