Last season, there was a very specific storyline that the Syracuse basketball team followed. Right the from the get-go we knew what this team was capable of, where they were going and how their season should probably end. For the most part, they fulfilled the expectations we put on them.
As for this year's Syracuse basketball squad...I don't have a friggin' clue. And apparently neither does anyone else.
Most experts and early pollsters seem to be taking the easy route and just dropping Syracuse out of their Top 25. That's fine. Syracuse notoriously does better when people don't expect them to anyway. I'll take unranked afterthought over highly-ranked expectations most days.
The questions this team presents seem endless. Mike Waters posed a couple of the most pressing questions in his latest column and they're all questions SU fans will be asking for the next couple months until we know for sure.
Can sophomore Scoop Jardine and/or freshman Brandon Triche replace Jonny Flynn?
Can Wes Johnson live up to the hype?
It’s not who replaces Devendorf, but how?
How is Onuaku’s knee?
Honestly, I don't think any of us will be able to answer that first one until we see both of them in action, find out how they'll be splitting time and whether or not Triche is truly ready to step into Flynn's shoes right away.
As for Johnson, I sure hope so. It's a weird kind of hype for Johnson. Those who are praising him are praising him to the highest reaches of the sky. This is a guy that Jim Boeheim is already preparing to lose after one season. Yet, outside of the small circle of people that are drooling over Wes' potential, there's little national fanfare for him. Obviously he's an known quantity to most and we can't expect Dick Vitale's interns to look past last season's statsheet when planning for the upcoming season. So I say let's keep Wes under wraps as long as we can. The more of a surprise his success can be, the better.
Replacing Devo? I'm not terribly worried about that. Andy Rautins has already proven himself a quality scorer, an amazing three-point threat and a clutch all-around player. He's Devo without all the baggage, swagger and questionable off-the-court behavior. Plus he comes with a fauxhawk. So that's a win.
Onuaku is coming off knee surgery this off-season and all signs point to him healing well. Good thing, the Orange are counting on him and Rick Jackson to control the frontcourt in Big East play, something SU hasn't always been able to do.
Of course, AO has another issue he needs to sort out as well...free throws.
For Syracuse’s Arinze Onuaku...[free throws] could be the difference between a mediocre season and being in the periphery of the Big East Player of the Year race. Not to kick-start a hype machine or boost his stock before he laces up his mammoth kicks this season, but the statistics, the results from last year… Well, quite frankly, it’s so jaw-droppingly obvious and the numbers nearly fall off the page.
...Onuaku gave a listless and lethargic account of himself from the free throw line last season, hoisting up the rock at a dreadful 30 percent (.298 to be exact).
If I were playing SU, I'd be ready to jump into full-on Hack-An-AO mode anytime the situation called for it. Unless, of course, the big man has worked out the kinks. Fingers crossed on that.
And those are just the big questions. Will Rick Jackson continue to improve? How will Kris Joseph respond to his injury? How will the other freshman impact the Orange? Will Mike Hopkins' website ever go live? Will Josh Wright show up at practice and ask for a sixth chance? Will Mookie Jones continue to take goofy photos of himself and post them on Facebook? The answers can't come soon enough.