Next year a rebuilding year in basketball?

Assuming Fair sticks around (I hope I don't jinx it, now), Syracuse will once again have six major players from last year's team returning. One huge thing sticks out when looking at who's coming back: they're all front court guys, except Trevor Cooney, who is a variable at this point. The incoming freshmen guards will have to play phenomenal if Syracuse is to once again copy the success of the last five seasons. Assuming Ennis & Co. are any good at dishing the ball down low, Syracuse just might have the best front court in the nation next season. I'd expect Keita to start at center, with Christmas and Fair at the forward positions, and Cooney and Ennis in the back court.

It's hard to say how Syracuse will do next season. I'm sorry to say it, but I think we'll be a 7-seed in the NCAA tournament next season. Yet, there are no guarantees with this team; maybe the freshmen will play out of their minds and be the best freshmen class since 2002-03. We'll know a little better come November, I suppose.

Here's some stats I compiled for the remaining players from the 2012-13 season:

Fair - 14.5 PPG, 7.0 RPG, 0.7 APG, 1.1 SPG, 1.1 BPG, 1.6 TPG, .470 FG%, .755 FT%, .469 3P%

Keita - 3.7 PPG, 3.7 RPG, 0.2 APG, 0.6 SPG, 1.2 BPG, 0.6 TPG, .618 FG%, .600 FT%

Christmas - 5.1 PPG, 4.6 RPG, 0.2 ASP, 0.5 SPG, 1.8 BPG, 0.9 TPG, .530 FG%, .574 FT%

Cooney - 3.4 PPG, 0.8 RPG, 0.6 APG, 0.7 SPG, 0.1 BPG, 0.5 TPG, .322 FG%, .733 FT%, .267 3P%

Coleman - 4.8 PPG, 4.0 RPG, 0.2 APG, 0.5 SPG, 0.4 BPG, 1.0 TPG, .438 FG%, .462 FT%

Grant - 3.9 PPG, 3.0 RPG, 0.5 APG, 0.4 SPG, 0.4 BPG, 0.7 TPG, .462 FG%, .562 FT%, .400 3P%

Totals (returning to team):

35.4 Points - Unless you're in the Big 10, you're not winning games by scoring 36 points. Expect everyone's points per game to increase; I'd expect Fair will produce around 20 PPG next year, so everyone else will have to do their fair share of scoring, too. Keep in mind, the returning players for 2012-13 only averaged 32.5 PPG in 2011-12.

23.1 Rebounds - Would like to see at least ten more rebounds per game than that. With Southerland gone, the big guys must step it up next year in rebounding, both offensively and defensively.

2.4 Assists -Syracuse will need all the help it can get from incoming Tyler Ennis; 2.4 assists per game will not cut it, and he will be called upon to distribute the ball immediately. Let's hope he can do it.

3.8 Steals - That's not too many steals per game, really, especially compared with how pesky the zone has been in recent years. There will surely be more than 4 steals per game next season, right?

5 Blocks - Not too bad but I'm going to expect more blocks from Christmas, Coleman, and Keita next season.

5.3 Turnovers - But most of these guys aren't ball handlers, they're catch-and-shoot. Can the freshmen, especially the guards, keep their turnovers down too?

.473 FG% - That's pretty good; can these guys keep that up next year? Hopefully the freshmen are good shooters, too; Syracuse will need more offense than it's returning players have shown they can provide, unless CJ drops 30 points a game.

.614 FT% - Typical Syracuse free throw shooting percentage.

.379 3P% - Not too bad; I would hardly call Syracuse dangerous from three, unless Cooney blossoms offensively next season into the 3-point threat many thought he would be last season.

My personal prediction for next year: like I said, 7-seed in the NCAA Tournament. I think we'll win Maui and come in 4th in the ACC. I think another Sweet Sixteen will be in order. And it'll be a good season, but a rebuilding season. I don't think it'll be a smashing success like the most recent seasons have been. Of course, your guess is as good as mine. Next season could go a lot of different ways; success is not guaranteed like previous years, but is definitely attainable.

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