The Syracuse Orange men's basketball team returns to the hardwood Wednesday evening, as they begin a four-game-in-four-days, exhibition road trip through Canada. The Orange, who're making their first international exhibition trip since 1990, are kick starting their "Great White North" campaign against McGill University at 6 p.m. ET on Time Warner Cable Sports. (If you do not get TWCS, check SUAthletics.com for viewing details, which will ask for your credit card.)
Unofficially, this is the start of the 2013-14 basketball season as 'Cuse fans will get a decent look at what this year's team will look like. Sure, the competition may not be North Carolina or Duke, but considering Syracuse will be trying to replace three key pieces to last year's Final Four team any game against any opponent will be helpful.
Now, before we all get geeked up for tonight's showdown with the Redmen and the rest of Montreal's basketball posse, lets breakdown what we should expect to see.
Freshmen Tyler Roberson and Chinonso Obokoh not playing
Roberson, a highly-touted freshman forward from New Jersey, and Obokoh, a freshman center from Rochester that is expected to be one of Jim Boeheim's big men projects, have yet to be cleared by the NCAA. Neither player is traveling with the Orange and will not play on the four-game road trip.
Freshmen point guard Tyler Ennis starting
With all the hoopla surrounding Ennis, a five-star recruit from Jersey and native of "Oh, Canada," this is one of the most anticipated debuts in awhile. A lot is riding on the freshman, as he needs to help replace a NBA Lottery pick and the SU player with the most all-time wins.
For all the talk, it sounds like Ennis could make a smoother transition than normal for a first-year player. We should get a decent idea if this is true over the next four days.
Trevor Cooney starting (maybe)
A bounce-back year is need for the sophomore
sharp-shooter (yeah, sorry Trevor for now this descriptor needs to be taken away), as he was a bit of a disappointment last season. (Though, we will always thank him for his few 3-pointers against Georgetown in the Big East Tournament.)
Because of his performance last season, there's a chance that transfer Michael Gbinije could start at No. 2. However, Gbinije could be the backup point guard to Ennis. Luckily, these next four games might give us an idea of what lineup will work best for the start of the regular season.
Can B.J. Johnson play himself out of a redshirt role
Because of eligibility issues concerning Roberson another incoming freshmen, Johnson, a 6-foot-7 forward, has a chance to play himself into a backup role and avoid that dreaded redshirt tag. If Johnson can play well in the next four days and continue to improve through pre-season workouts then he could force Boeheim and company to have no choice but to keep him on the roster for this season. However, there's a boatload of talent ahead of him and the task will be tough.
More 3-point shooting
Whether this is good or bad, this year's team should shoot more from the outside. Cooney is expected to be the No. 1 threat (if he gets his head out of his you know where), while C.J. Fair is expected to continue his development from beyond the arc. Word is that sophomore forward Jerami Grant is shooting it better than last year, while Ennis and Gbinije can each make a good percentage of their outside shots.
If this is the case, then that should bode well for Fair and the rest of the big men inside, as teams will not be able to pack SU inside as much as they did last year. Plus, 'Cuse will need to score more points in the ACC than they did in the Big East where a 50-60 point night was considered good.
No walk-on fun
SU walk-ons are not traveling with the team, in fact, according to Mike Waters, they are not even in school yet. So, no matter how lopsided the scores get there will be no walk-on fun for viewers.
10 Men In
Projected rotation (for now): Starters -- Ennis (1), Cooney (2), Fair (3), Rakeem Christmas (4), Dajuan Coleman (5); Bench -- Gbinjije (1 or 2), Grant (3 or 4), Baye Moussa Keita (5), Johnson (3 or 4) and Ron Patterson (1 or 2).
Let the games begin!