When college basketball ends, some go through withdrawal. It's worse, for example, if your team gets bounced from the NCAA tournament earlier than expected. It feels like the season ended prematurely, and everyone knows that premature anything isn't good. Fortunately, Syracuse fans didn't experience that last year, Final Four and all.
God, that was nice...
Sure, lacrosse and football help fill up the longest off-season in the history of mankind, but there comes a point when you just need some of this in your life, you know? In the past, looking toward the next hoops season didn't even occupy much time because aside from personnel changes, we knew what to expect from teams in the Big East.
This time is different. The only thing familiar about next year will be Pittsburgh's zoo and Notre Dame's burn; and to be honest, I could have gone without either of those things.
In any event, we've got a whole new conference to navigate, ladies and gents. Let's take it from the top with the Boston College Eagles.
2012-2013 Record: 16-17 (7-11)
Conference Ranking: 8th
Historical Notes: Under the category, "Things You've Never Heard Before," Syracuse and BC were conference opponents from 1979 until BC went to the ACC in 2005. The Orange currently leads the all-time series 40-23. Oh, and during the 1983-84 season, Pearl Washington hit a half court shot at the buzzer to beat BC in the Dome. That's notable.
What they're known for: Um. Recently? Let's go with head coach Steve Donahue, who was hired to make some changes after leading Cornell's 2009-2010 squad to the Sweet 16. Having just completed his third year, he shows no signs of backing down from the challenge.
Season Summary: The
Red Storm Eagles were young, relying heavily on freshmen and sophomores. They ended the regular season on a 3-game winning streak, and fell to eventual champs, Miami, in the ACC Tournament. Last year was better than 2011-12 (9-22, 4-12), but the sub-.500 finish only resulted in an invite to the CBI Tournament - an invitation that was politely declined.
Olivier Hanlan (15.4 PPG/4.2 RPG/2.3 APG). Remember this name. Shall I repeat it? Olivier Hanlan. This 6-4 guard was mentioned alongside former Tar Heels, Harrison Barnes and Tyler Hansbrough, but not just because he, too, was ACC Rookie of the Year. He's the guy who broke their freshman single-game scoring record after going off for 41 points in the conference tourney against Georgia Tech. A unanimous pick for the All-Freshman team, his 3-point shooting improved during the season; in his last 10 games, he sank an insane 22-of-38.
Ryan Anderson (14.9 PPG/8.0 RPG/1.6 APG). Those are some C.J. Fair numbers, folks, and this kid was only a sophomore. After early-season domination, teams began to figure out how to curb his effectiveness. Still, he was impressive enough to make the All-ACC Third Team.
Personnel Changes: The only departure is senior forward Andrew Van Nest (3.2 PPG/1.8 RPG). The Eagles will add Darryl Hicks (6-2, guard), Garland Owens (6-5, forward), and Billy Magarity, Jr. (6-11, forward). There's also Alex Dragicevich - a 6-7 forward, who sat out last year after transferring from Notre Dame. Yea, just add that to your lazy announcer Bingo card for BC v. ND games right now.
2013-2014 Potential: They're movin' on up. Donahue's system is guard-centric, and he certainly has some talented ones. That aside, this group also has experience and chemistry - major advantages. The incoming players provide depth at every position; and before you think that their defense could use another big man, remember that Clifford wasn't himself last season. If he's at full strength, the Eagles are pretty balanced.
Is BC back? I wouldn't go that far, but keep this in mind: six of last year's conference losses were by five points or less, so don't be surprised if this team wins a couple of those next year, instead.
Orange Match-Up: With incoming point guard Tyler Ennis listed at 6-2, the zone has lost some size. Should Hanlan get hot from behind the arc and exploit this, the defense will extend, forcing the Eagles to go inside. While the Orange has more options down low, 7-feet tall is still 7-feet tall. Clifford could tempt Syracuse's big men to leave their feet on defense even more than they did last year (ugh). Unless their timing/execution improves a little bit there, they could run into foul trouble. Or maybe the NCAA could just deal with the f-ing block/charge issue, since calling it correctly causes more trouble than a peanut allergy, but I digress...
Even with the influx of new blood creating some uncertainty in the Syracuse offense next year, that's about it for concerns here. The Eagles are not a defensive powerhouse likely to cause significant problems, so the Orange shouldn't have trouble with this one.