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2013-2014 Starting Five

I know its too early to project next year's starting lineup, but I'm a bit obsessive. I've some projections out there that I thought were way off, so I wanted to put mine out there with the reasons why I think it will end up that way.

PG: Tyler Ennis - This is a no brainer, mainly because there is no else. The bigger question will be who will back-up Ennis. Ideally, it would Antonio Barton, the former Memphis Tiger who is looking for somewhere to transfer. He will graduate from Memphis this spring, so he would be eligible to play next year. He is an ideal fit because he provides experience and ballhandling backing up Ennis, using the scholarship made available by MCW leaving early while not affecting the number of scholarships available for the 2014 recruiting class. But Barton wants more playing time, making Syracuse an unlikely choice. If Barton decides to go elsewhere, I think Gbinije is choice to fill in when Ennis needs a breather. Gbinije is the best ball handler of the remaining guards and has been practicing there during the year he had to sit out.

SG: Michael Gbinije - I've seen Cooney projected here often, but Cooney starting is unlikely. Even if Cooney is shooting well, he is a one dimensional player offensively. Gbinije is a complete player who can shoot from 3, create his own shot, drive to the basket or penetrate and pass. Boeheim will utilize Cooney similar to how he used Marius Janulis, that is, he'll come off the bench to provide some spark and make a few threes, until his senior year or so. Cooney's defensive intensive is admirable, but Gbinije will provide exceptional length at the top of the zone. Gbinije filling in at PG will give Cooney ample time to see if his shot is 'on' in any particular game, and if not, give Patterson some time on the floor as well. Having Gbinije's height & Patterson's length on the floor at the top of the zone will be a nightmare for opposing teams.

SF: C.J. Fair - This should be a no-brainer as well, though I've seen some people project either Gbinije or Grant here. C.J. Fair's season will be spent auditioning for the league. He must show he can play from perimeter, continuing to improve his 3 point shot (he shot an exceptional 47% from 3, but only took 64 shots. He needs to about double the number of shots & maintain a solid percentage, to show he can play from outside) and drive to his right side. I don't think Gbinije will play forward in Boeheim's zone, unless he goes to a three guard set at some point, because while Gbinije's length is great for the top of the zone, its subpar for a Syracuse wing. Backing up C.J. will be Grant (when he's not playing PF) or Tyler Roberson. This will make minutes scarce for B.J. Johnson who needs to put on weight and who won't be 18 years old until December of 2014, so Johnson may benefit from a redshirt.

PF: Jerami Grant - A lot of projections have Rakeem Christmas starting at PF and Coleman at Center. Last year, Syracuse tried experimenting with both Christmas and Coleman on the wing with disastrous results. Playing Grant at PF gives the team its most athletic frontcourt and most active zone. Grant is a better option offensively than Christmas at the PF position, as Grant has shown he can stroke the occasional open 3 or drive to the basket, while Christmas must score within six feet of basket mostly. Grant showed he can rebound well enough to play the position, in fact, averaging about the same rebounds per 40 minutes as Christmas. I wouldn't rule out Christmas playing some minutes at PF backing up Grant. Roberson may gets some minutes here as well, although he was adamant he wanted to focus on playing SF.

C: DaJuan Coleman - This decision contemplates some significant improvement by Coleman. At times in 2012-2013, Coleman seemed simply lost on the floor. The old adage though, is that big men need a year of seasoning before excelling in the college game. Christmas did not make any significant strides between his freshman and sophomore years, making it less likely he will make any marked improvement between his sophomore and junior years. However, while it wasn't always pretty, Coleman averaged the most points per minute AND rebounds per minute of the centers on the roster. If his knee and conditioning improve to where he can be on the floor for long stretches of time, he could be the major low post contributor this team needs. With Coleman, however, the team loses out on the defensive athleticism of Christmas, including shotblocking. I also think not starting Christmas gives the team more flexibility using Christmas to back up either PF or C. It may be that Boeheim starts Christmas at PF in the same type of ceremonial role that Coleman started at center this year at the beginning of year but always got yanked in the first 3 minutes. I think there is even an argument to be made where Keita should start at center, given how well the zone plays when he is making the call under the basket, but I think a few egos would be bruised if that happened. No matter the starter at center, I think minutes will be tough to come by Chinoso Obokoh. He missed a lot of his senior year with a nagging foot injury. While he stated through his twitter account that he doesn't want to redshirt, it may be the best thing for him.

Bench: Cooney & Patterson at SG. Grant & Roberson at SF. Christmas & Roberson at PF. Christmas & Keita at C. With Johnson & Obokoh redshirting, this will give Boeheim a ten man rotation to work with. He is notorious for not going too deep into his bench, making playing time for the two potential redshirts even less likely. As I've said, this lineup gives Syracuse its most athletic and active zone, while also trying to maximize offensive output.

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