Welcome to the first Syracuse basketball roundtable of the new year! After a long offseason, the Orange are back on the court and have a lot of hurdles ahead of them if they hope to replicate 2013-14's regular season success. We're encouraged about what lies ahead, obviously, and are looking forward to what 2014-15 brings.
As is and will be the norm all season, we've opened the floor to (some of) the basketball TNIAAM wing to discuss this week's burning questions about Syracuse on- and off-the-court, the ACC and more. Join us below:
Has the football season fixed that sour taste in your mouth from last basketball season's ending?
Ben Burrows: To an extent it has. I think only a successful season this year will really fix that sour taste. That team last year was really good even with major flaws and all of those flaws were fixable — not letting CJ Fair take 15 long 2s a game, not killing six or seven guys in the rotation because a few guys "aren’t ready" were easily fixable and that really bugged me.
Matthew Constas: No, because the football team already failed to be bowl eligible. I think time is really what fixed the sour taste, and the fact that last basketball season ended pretty much the same way they all do. It was a similar song with a different dance. Success turns to end of season struggles, injuries cripple their depth and the team just didn't fix their problems heading into the postseason. This team, no matter how different the roster is from year to year, is fairly predictable. The initial sadness just goes away with time and years of experiencing it.
Michael Burke: Not quite. I had high hopes for this year’s football team, even predicting back in August that the Orange would win seven games and get to another bowl game. Obviously, that didn’t happen, and it sucks to have lost bowl eligibility with two games still remaining. But I’m sure as hell glad basketball is back. We need something to be excited about, and I'm already starting to like this team.
Sean Keeley: Has a 3-7 football season made me feel better about things? No. No it has not. Bring on basketball season...
John Cassillo: A 3-7 start to a terrible football season has at least helped me put the 2013-14 basketball season in perspective. Under Jim Boeheim, no matter what happens, the "bottom" of things isn't the same low we can find with football. So for that, I'm at least thankful for hoops and a bit grateful for what we get to enjoy being fans of a program like this one.
Any faith Trevor Cooney shakes whatever's been hindering his shooting for the last 10 or 11 months?
BB: Gerry will be fine. I think a lot of his struggles last year were from other teams giving him zero space. And without any other real shooters and little dribble penetration to put pressure on defenders, he wasn’t really put in a position to succeed. As for his struggles already this year: it’s two damn games. Two fake games, actually. Small sample size, guys. I think this year’s team will give him a lot more space to work with. That space is going to give him a lot more open looks rather than the semi-contested ones he shot through last year.
MC: I sure hope so. We hear how he is a very hard worker and I love that he continues to shoot despite his struggles because it shows he is still confident in himself and so are his coaches and teammates. I think that support can go a long way for a guy like him. I think he will get out of it, and we know he can get very hot from out there. He started last season making 43 of his first 86 attempts from beyond the arc and that is impressive for anybody against any team at any time of the season. If the Orange get off to a good start this year, his shooting will be synonymous with it. In wins he shot 41.5 percent from three an 20 percent in losses in 2013-14. If the Orange can come out hot again this year, Cooney will be a major part of it.
MB: I don’t have much evidence to support this position, but, yeah, I think Cooney is going to figure it out at some point. After going 0-fer against Carleton, he made a couple of three’s on Monday night (though he did take nine), and I tend to think he’ll re-find his shot as the season continues.
SK: I have to keep hope alive that Cooney is going to find his touch the same way Andy Rautins eventually did before him. He hasn't given us much hope in what we've seen so far but maybe he's saving the good stuff for the regular season. Maybe? Please...
JC: I don't have much faith given the mounting evidence that this version of Trevor Cooney is the one we're most likely to see on the court. Take a look at his collection of box scores since ACC play began last season. Maybe he pulls himself out of whatever mental rut he's in. But we're too far in to say "he's going to shoot himself out of it." He might not, honestly. I hope he does, but I'm not holding my breath.
Estimate a date when Jim Boeheim goes ahead and commandeers his Twitter account.
BB: The same day the dinosaurs rise from the dead and retake the Earth.
MC: I'm going to go with never.
MB: Never. It’s never happening.
SK: Whatever the publishing date of his next book is.
JC: When's the next rant-inducing loss going to happen? Whenever that is, I bet Boeheim makes some quick demands and heads to Twitter to vent (for better or worse).
What's one thing you expect to see a lot of from the Orange vs. Kennesaw State on Friday?
BB: I expect a lot of Michael Gbinije at the point. These are the games were you really experiment with stuff and we need to see him actually run the offense. Dribbling the ball up the court and tossing it into an iso play doesn’t count. I think he gets a lot of reps at the 1 running complex plays when Joseph sits.
MC: I think we will see an aggressive defense leading to transition offense. Let's face it, the Orange offense has been pretty bad the past two years. I think with the talent and the athletes they have, getting up and down the court and finding easy ways to score will be their best form of offense. And, going back to Cooney, running in transition is an easy way to get open shots from beyond the arc.
MB: I expect to see a lot of pushing the tempo. With Tyler Ennis, that’s not something Syracuse did much of last season. But Kaleb Joseph is more inclined to get out in transition, and that’s something we saw a little bit of in the two exhibitions.
SK: Buss Patterson flying around making things happen. The sophomore is going to assert himself every chance he gets and he's still trying to earn Boeheim's trust. I expect Patterson to keep at it until he's seventh in the rotation or seven seats from Boeheim every evening.
JC: Lineup experimentation. I don't want to get ahead of myself and say "winning" or "scoring" (that second one, in particular, is far from guaranteed). But I expect to see a lot of different looks as Jim Boeheim tries to find a cohesive combination out there that may put up some points later in the season.
Will Tyler Roberson ever get out of Boeheim's dog house?
BB: Probably. Unless there's something really bad going on that we aren’t aware of, he seems too talented to be stuck there for too long.
MC: I really want him to. This guy is something special, and Boeheim has to know that better than almost anyone. He has to be one of the most, if not the most, talented players on this team. He is filling in vacant roles left by C.J. Fair and Jerami Grant. The Orange will need him to play well if they want to be successful.
MB: Man, I don’t know. He was pulled from the game just 10 seconds after tipoff on Monday night. 10 seconds! Still, the Orange aren’t that deep, and they might need Roberson to be a key contributor this season. So, at some point, he’ll probably have to get out of the dog house if Syracuse wants to reach its potential.
SK: Somebody's gotta be in it. It's a rite of passage. I feel like Rak will do his best to keep Boeheim grumpy, especially if he gets into foul trouble, but Roberson is the favorite for Jimmy B's whipping dog for a while.
JC: Based on Monday's 10-second hook, I doubt it. Granted, if he avoids mistakes, he'll get more chances. But Boeheim demands competence and focus, so if Roberson shows any signs he's still not all "with it," it'll be a quick pull yet again. Each season, someone serves this role. It was Roberson last season, and it's likely to be again.
Without giving a win-loss record or tournament prediction, just give me a 1-10 (10 being highest) on your expectations for Syracuse hoops this year (and why).
BB: 7. Joseph and McCullough are highly-rated prospects and SU brings back some key pieces so I think it should be competing for a conference title. I think last year’s team had a higher floor but this year’s team has a much higher ceiling. If Joseph and McCullough are as good as we think they can be, the Orange will go pretty far.
MC: 7. I just think that based on the small sample size of play that we have of this team, the strength of their schedule and conference, they are not too impressive to me despite having a lot of talent on paper. An NCAA tourney team for sure, but at least right now we should not expect this to be a championship caliber team. I hope they prove me wrong.
MB: I’ll go with 7, and that’s assuming that a 5 would be that I’m expecting what the rest of the country seems to be expecting -- that Syracuse is a borderline top-25 team. I think the Orange are a little better than that. I love what I’ve seen so far from Joseph and Chris McCullough, think Rakeem Christmas is going to have a huge season, I expect (as I said above) Cooney to turn it around, and I think we’ve got some depth (Michael Gbinije is going to surprise some people this year). I’m expecting a pretty fun season.
SK: 7. While we may not be as gifted or talented as years past, we're still Syracuse, dammit. We're still going to compete in the upper half of the ACC and we're going to win a bunch of games and we're going to the NCAA Tournament and we're going to do Syracuse things. Who knows, I always say we do our best work when no one's watching. Well let them not watch...
JC: Last year, expectations were an 8 before the season, and were elevated to a 10 by mid-year. This season, we'll start at a 7 and see where it goes. The ACC is an even tougher league now with Louisville in the fold, and between that and the conference's overall strength at the top, there's reasons to doubt SU. Coupled with that, Syracuse replaces a lot of last year's meager scoring but brings in talent to replace it too. Any other program, maybe this year gets a 5/6. But not Syracuse.