Tomorrow, something called the Kennessaw State Fighting Owls will step on to Jim Boeheim Court in the Carrier Dome and the 2014-2015 Syracuse Orange men's basketball season will officially be underway.
So many questions. So many unknowns. So many games to figure it all out in.
Jim Boeheim's squad has the lowest expectations of any Syracuse team of the past since 2008's NIT group. But does that mean they're actually not very good or just that college basketball has yet to meet Chris McCullough, Kaleb Joseph and the new & improved Rakeem Christmas?
The TNIAAM staff each took their own stab at trying to predict where the season will take us. Check out our takes and then leave your own in the poll and comments. Welcome back, everyone. Good to be here...
If things work out well, meaning everyone jells well together and it avoids some big upsets in the non-conference schedule, I think 25-regular season victories is a real possibility.
I say this because there's still some solid talent on this squad that will overpower a lot of teams. The reason why there's so much doubt surrounding the team is because we haven't seen a lot of these players play.
Overall, I am going to go with a 23-7 regular season finish with a fourth-place finish in the ACC standings. I expect Duke, Louisville and one other sneaky team to be better.
I'd like to say there team has the potential to be a four or five seed in the NCAA Tournament, and, hopefully, they peak at the right time.
I think this is going to be a pretty good team, so 22-8 would be a good number. I believe Duke and Louisville are definitely better, so that’s three losses right there. North Carolina is likely another loss and there will probably be some winnable games that don’t work out and some games SU should probably lose but pull out. So eight or so losses seems about right.
I believe this team is more talented than last year with the additions of Joseph and McCullough, so I expect it to be better than last year at the end of the season. Getting to that point will probably have a stretch or two of some ugly play, though.
With that being said, I think a 3 seed would be the best scenario and a 5 or a 6 is probably the floor for this team. It should be able to do some damage in the tournament, but I wouldn't expect a Sweet 16 appearance.
Record: 24-7 (12-6 ACC) - I see us losing to Texas at MSG next Friday but winning the rest of our non-conference games. The ACC will be up and down, especially during that stretch from 2/14 to 3/2 when we play Duke twice, Pitt, Louisville, Notre Dame, and Virginia. That will probably be where we see our mid-season swoon. 3/7 at N.C. State is no easy task either. However, I think we will clean up against the weaker ACC foes, early in the conference record and get out to a nice start, which will carry us through the rough February/March stretch.
ACC Finish: Fourth behind Duke, UNC, Louisville...Duke will be relying on a ton of freshmen but they have scary talent coming in, and there is little use in betting against Coach K in the ACC regular season. UNC and Louisville are more experienced teams that are always strong, and I just don't think we'll be quite far enough along to challenge those three. We'll probably be closer to the No. 5 team than the No. 3.
NCAA Tournament: I see SU falling in the 4/5 range, but we'll probably be happy to see some non-conference opponents again after that brutal late-ACC stretch. I like to think that a young team like this will peak at the right time, maybe take out a team it shouldn't, and get to another Sweet 16, maybe even farther if the cards fall right.
Syracuse has a lot to replace this season, but like always, there's also a lot of help on the way as well. The Orange take their lumps in non-conference play (losses to Michigan and Iowa/Texas, plus a few more close calls), but the early-season offensive struggles pay dividends later as the team finds itself some scoring options in Michael Gbinije and Chris McCullough. The defense tightens up as ACC play gets rolling, but again, some more bumps -- but not enough to prevent them from recovering. A fifth-place league finish and a trip to the ACC semifinals gain the Orange a sixth-seed over in the Midwest, where they win a couple games before bowing out in the Sweet 16. It's no Final Four berth, but I'll take it as a successful year for SU.
24-7, 4th in ACC, Sweet 16 appearance
Obviously, finishing better than fifth in the ACC is going to be tough this season for Syracuse. Four teams from the conference -- Duke, North Carolina, Louisville and Virginia -- are all ranked in the first AP Top 25 and USA Today Coaches polls. But, as I wrote on Tuesday, I think the Orange are going to be better than people think. Kaleb Joseph, though he’s a much different type of player than Tyler Ennis, is going to fill in nicely at the point guard spot. The 6-foot-10 Chris McCullough, Syracuse’s sole five-star recruit from the 2014 class, has star potential.
Boeheim has been raving since May about Rakeem Christmas, and I expect the big man to live up to the coach’s praise. It’s been well documented that Trevor Cooney has struggled and continues to struggle with his shot, but I have faith that he’ll turn it around sooner rather than later. Even if he doesn’t, Ron Patterson proved against Carleton that he just might be that sniper off the bench that Syracuse needs. Oh, and Michael Gbinije is going to see big minutes this season at multiple positions, and I think he’s going to be a key, key contributor. All of that adds up to a fourth-place finish in the ACC (I think Syracuse will be a little better than Virginia) and a trip to the Sweet Sixteen. And who knows? If this team gets hot at the right time, perhaps a run to the Final Four isn’t completely out of the question. We’ll see.
I'm gonna go with 30-9 and a fifth place finish in the ACC.
I think there could be a couple more wins or losses, but this record seems to be a good estimate. I think there will be some moments both good and bad, but these guys will be able to compete against a lot of the top teams in the country. They will be tested in both the non-conference and conference schedules. A lot of players will have to embrace new roles that they haven't had before in their entire careers. That will be the challenge for a relatively inexperienced team, finding ways to learn their roles and execute as a unit in time to make a postseason run.
Here's the most Syracuse Fan-answer I can give. I think we're gonna be bette than people think. So there you go.
Quick look at the non-conference schedule, I'm going to give us an 11-2 record. Coming off the Maui Invitational win, we're due to lose in this year's early tournament. And I think it's fair to think we could lose at Villanova. But otherwise, we should come out reasonably well. Fingers crossed.
As for ACC play, it's gonna be tough but it's not like we're gonna fall off the map. I'm giving us a 12-6 conference record. Lots of split series and tough road games in there so let's not get crazy. But all of that said, that gets us to 23-8, which does't match what we've done in some recent years, but it's solid. Let's go into the ACC Tournament where we win one and lose one, sending us into the NCAAs as a 5-seed.
Once there, the baseline for me is always Sweet Sixteen. No matter what, if we make the tournament, we should make it to the second weekend. So we'll see. No one can predict what happens once you get in the tourney.