It's surprisingly easy to put Syracuse basketball on the backburner this week, considering the off-the-field hullabaloo going on with our offensive coordinator. But we're still just five weeks away from the Orange's first real game, so time to start diving into previews for the 2014-15 season!
The TNIAMM hoops staff will be chatting all about the biggest questions, burning issues and interesting ideas around the Syracuse Orange up until tipoff vs. Kennesaw State on November 14. This week:
Losing several standout players this past offseason, Syracuse will be putting a ton of onus/pressure on incoming freshman (both true and redshirts). Which Orange newcomer do you think will have the biggest impact on the team this season? Any potential Tyler Ennis-level breakouts to look out for?
Matt Constas: I have high hopes for Chris McCullough. i think he could be one of the most, if not the most, talented recruit the Orange have had since Carmelo Anthony. I'm not asking this guy to come out and lead us to a national title in one year, that would be ridiculous on my part, but I think his play will be a key to their success. After losing C.J. Fair and Jerami Grant to the NBA, McCullough will fill in as a replacement for one of them at the forward position, and he is perfect for it. A 7'2 1/2" wingspan and a knack for swatting shot and intercepting passes make him a prototypical player in the 2-3 zone. He loves to run the floor, rebound, dunk the ball and he can even shoot it from long distance. This guy is a unique talent. How quickly he adjusts to the college game mentally and physically will ultimately influence the course of the team's season. I'm not worried about him, though. He is a natural.
Michael Burke: I'll go with the obvious answer: Kaleb Joseph. I wouldn't be shocked if Joseph is ultimately a bust, at least to some degree. He's definitely raw. But I believe he will shine in Orange, starting this season. Joseph is as athletic and as explosive as they come. He'll turn the ball over his fair share -- I don't doubt that -- but he'll also be an effective scorer immediately. Not only does Joseph have a nice shot, but he finishes well at the rim, too. He won't be the true point guard that Ennis was, but he will push the tempo and create opportunities for his teammates on the break -- something Ennis rarely did. But what I like best about Joseph is his competitive spirit. He told syracuse.com's Chris Carlson he gets "pissed" even when he loses pickup games. I love that attitude in any player, but especially in a point guard. I'm on the Kaleb Joseph bandwagon. Stay tuned.
Lisa Nelson: The easy answer is Kaleb Joseph. As the likely starting point guard, he'll control much of what happens on the court, hence big impact. Now, depending on how long it takes him to warm up to the pace of a college game, that impact may be positive or negative. (FWIW, I think it will be positive.) On the other hand, experience tells us to expect the unexpected, so I'll think outside the box for a hot second: Chris McCullough shocks the world and becomes the spark-off-the-bench guy by season's end. Ta-da!
Matt McClusky: Four straight years, four different starting point guards for Syracuse. That's really tough to believe, isn't it? But the fact that SU has become Point Guard U, with so many future pros graduating quickly to the next level, leads one to think Kaleb Joseph will be The Man this year.
Joseph is, by most accounts, is ready to step in and run Jim Boeheim's team from minute one. And given what being ready to run the team has meant for the likes of Michael Carter-Williams and Tyler Ennis, it's not a stretch to think this will be another one-and-done type frosh.
Still, I'll go with Chris McCullough as having the most profound impact on Syracuse this season. Boeheim has said, repeatedly, that McCullough is one of, if not the most, ready to play freshman he's ever had on campus. We're talking about a six-foot-ten big man with the alleged ability to hit from deep and to get to the rim off the dribble. If he can live up to the hype, and Boeheim so rarely steers us wrong, McCullough should help Syracuse increase its 68.2 points per game average significantly.
Dan Lyons: Just by virtue of him definitely being thrust into the starting point guard role, I think Kaleb Joseph has to fit the bill here. While Chris McCullough is the bigger name with the higher upside, he'll still have to earn his role in the rotation. Joseph has to step right in and steer a team that will likely look to get closer to its running, up-tempo ways than it was this past season with Ennis at the helm. I don't think he'll be quite the floor general as Ennis, nor will he play with Ennis' amazing efficiency, but I actually think the brand (#brand) of basketball we play will be more attractive for it, even if it means a few more bumps along the way.
John Cassillo: I do have faith in the impacts of Chris McCullough and Kaleb Joseph, respectively, but the biggest impact may actually be redshirt freshman Chino Obokoh at center. We all know that Rakeem Christmas is experienced and very capable of holding down his spot on the floor, but he's also one to get into foul trouble. And without DaJuan Coleman available (as we saw last year), that's a big issue. Now, McCullough has similar size and can play center as well, but early on, it could be Obokoh providing that energy in relief and a tougher rebounding edge. If he's truly the "best rebounder on the team," then Chino could provide the fast start SU needs in the paint.
Sean Keeley: Gotta go with Chris McCullough. Boeheim doesn't throw around the kind of praise he's been giving McCullough lightly. He did the same thing with Tyler Ennis. If Boeheim thinks this could be a one-and-done talent, I believe him. Whether or not he will be, that's hard to say. My guess is that he'll be really good but still come back for another year. What's working in the big forward's favor is that Syracuse has no consistent scorer ahead of him. Trevor Cooney can score 25 but he can also score 5. SU is desperate for someone to step up and become a dependable scorer this season and when I look around, McCullough feels like the most likely candidate...assuming he lives up to the hype.