Yes, I ripped off the idea from Mike Waters, and yes I’m lazy by doing only four points instead of five. That’s how we operate here at the Nunes.
1 – SU will look to involve Dajuan Coleman early
The Orange went to Coleman in the post early in each of the four games. At times he was able to muscle his way to the rim for a layup, at others he looks somewhat mechanical and had difficulty elevating over the defense to finish. The results were mixed to say the least. He was outstanding vs. Ottawa, the final stop on the trip, scoring 26 points on 10-13 from the floor and 6-10 from the line in 26 minutes. He was quick, active, and aggressive, and it showed in his output. He was the stud post player Orange fans have been looking for since he committed to SU two years ago.
The other three games? There were bright spots for sure, a nice looking dropstep here or a tough putback there. But he scored more vs. Ottawa than in the other three games combined, going for 9 vs. McGill, 6 vs. Bishop’s, and 2 vs. Carleton.
If Coleman wants to become a focal point of the SU offense this year, he’s going to have to become more consistent. Two points in 13 minutes against anyone isn’t going to cut it. But it appears that, at least early on, Jim Boeheim and his coaching staff will give Dajuan every opportunity to earn those touches and shots around the basket.
2 – Rebounding will be a topic of discussion once again
I know, I know. SU has a disadvantage when defensive rebounding out of the zone. It’s tougher to control the defensive boards when you are responsible for guarding an area, not a person. It’s a narrative that we hear over and over again, and it has plenty of merit.
But there’s a difference between a reason and an excuse. When Syracuse is active, boxing out and attacking the glass, they have the size and athleticism to rebound with anyone in the country. When they are passive and wait for the ball to come to them, smaller and more agile teams are able to beat them to it. We saw it time and time again last season with essentially the same crop of centers and forwards, plus James Southerland.
SU won the board battle in three of the four games in Canada, losing only to Carleton, who happens to be the best college team in the country. However, they didn't dominate as much as they could have given the sheer size and speed advantage they had over their opponents. Yes, I'm nitpicking. Yes, SU has fared perfectly well without being a dominant rebounding team. But the Orange will lose one or two winnable games this season if they don't tighten things up on the boards. The ACC is too big and too good to let opponents get second chances night in and night out.
3 – Tyler Ennis will play all the minutes
It’s as much an indication of Ennis’s maturity as it is the quality of his backups, but we could see Jonny Flynn-level playing time for the freshman point guard this year. Ennis looked good last week, going head-to-head with many of his fellow countrymen who wanted to prove themselves against the best young guard in Canada. He put up a respectable 10 points and 3 assists in 27 minutes per game, including a whopping 44 minutes in the overtime win vs. Carleton.
Ennis isn’t the same type of player as his predecessor, Michael Carter-Williams. He’s much more of a scorer, and not as refined of a passer or playmaker – similar to Flynn. But that could be a benefit for the Orange, who at times last season lacked that backcourt scoring threat when the game was on the line. I don’t know if Ennis can be that guy right away, but he will certainly have all the time he needs to get there. His primary backyups at point guard will be either Michael Gbinije or Trevor Cooney, a pair of redshirt sophomores who have enough to prove at their natural shooting guard positions without having to take on the added responsibility of running the point for 10 minutes a game. I believe Gbinije will get the bulk of the backup PG minutes, which he did in practice as a redshirt last year, but Cooney will get plenty of early-season looks as Boeheim searches for insurance against fatigue, foul trouble or injury.
4 – Enjoy Jerami Grant while he lasts
Jerami Grant is going to be a stud.
I’m not one for early-season rankings, but if you believe what you read we may be looking at an MCW situation all over again. Grant is slotted somewhere in the mid-to-late teens on several 2014 NBA Draft boards, including ESPN.com and NBADraft.net, in what is expected to be an absolutely LOADED draft no less. If Grant continues to develop at his current pace, and if a couple players ahead of him either drop out of the draft or have poor seasons, he could easily be a lottery pick by June.
In the four games in Canada, Grant put up some sneaky impressive numbers against admittedly (athletically) inferior competition. He averaged 13.2 points and 7.7 rebounds in about 26 minutes a game, and displayed a skillset that we didn’t see much of his freshman season. I watched him pull off several drives to the basket and a couple of mid-range jump shots that, if he can replicate with some regularity, will open up a whole new world of to him beyond the raw offensive flashes he showed last year. Combine that with the hustle, rebounding, and freakish athleticism we already know Grant brings to the table, and next spring a skyrocketing draft stock – like Carter-Williams before him – may be too much to resist.