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Syracuse Basketball Preview: '14-'15 Super Superlatives & Burning Questions

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Before the season begins, let's find out who we think will run the show and what we expect when the dust settles.

Rich Barnes-USA TODAY Sports

The Syracuse Orange basketball season tips tonight when the Kennesaw State Fighting Owls come a-hootin'. Before they get here, we decided to go around the room here at TNIAAM and find out what everyone thinks the answers to SU's burning questions are. See below and let us know what you think in the comments...

Who Will Be The MVP
Michael Burke: Kaleb Joseph. I'm the driver of the Kaleb Joseph bandwagon. I love his motor, I love his competitive edge, and I love what I saw against Carleton. Yeah, I know I shouldn't buy much into the first exhibition game. Oh well. I did.
Jared Smith: Michael Gbinije
John Cassillo: Rakeem Christmas -- the offense figures to focus in on him a lot more and if his offseason work is any indication, that should pay huge dividends for a player driven to scoring more and being a much bigger part of offensive execution.
Matt McClusky: Kaleb Joseph: We've seen how important points are at Syracuse.
Jeremy Ryan: Kaleb Joseph. As he goes, so goes SU's offense. I don't see them scoring a lot of points if they can't push the tempo and get easy opportunities.
Sean Farrell: Rakeem Christmas – He’s developed into a great defensive player and inside presence. Even though his offensive game leaves a little to be desired, he’s my MVP.
Sean Keeley: Rakeem Christmas. He may not lead the team in scoring or be the No. 1 option but we're counting on him to be the rock (rak?) in the middle on both sides of the floor. I'm expecting double-double numbers out of him.
Ben Burrows: Kaleb Joseph. I believe a lot of SU’s success is going to come from him doing well. He’s going to have the ball in his hands a lot and be counted on to make a lot of plays. I can’t imagine any single player having more of an impact or more value for the Orange than Joseph.

Who Will Be Syracuse's Leading Scorer?
MB:
Chris McCullough. At 6-foot-10 with the ability to score both inside and out, McCullough's going to get his this season.
JS: Trevor Cooney
JC: Michael Gibinje -- I've been talking about this for awhile, and he's ready to make a bit of a leap. Gbinije has a better jump shot than anyone else on the team not named Trevor Cooney and the ability to drive the lane, too. He'll be a sixth man, but will have quite an impact on this team. MM: Chris McCullough. I'm just not buying in to a Jim Boeheim offense centering in on...a center.
JR: Chris McCullough. He may be the most versatile forward to come to SU since Pope Carmelo Anthony, or even Saint John Wallace. That's the kind of skillset he's capable of.
SF: Kaleb Joseph. Tempted to say Trevor Cooney, but I just couldn’t bring myself to doing it.
SK: Chris McCullough. The freshman is in the best spot to score and he's going to get fed by Joseph & Gbinije from the top and kicked-out from Christmas all game long. If Cooney's not connecting, McCullough will become our most reliable threat.
BB: Joseph, again. This isn’t because he is necessarily the team’s best scorer but more about usage. He’s a scoring guard and the points will have to come from somewhere with CJ Fair and Jerami Grant gone.

Who Will Be Syracuse's Best Defensive Player?
MB
: Rakeem Christmas. Though Kaleb Joseph could be really pesky and a close second, Rak is and will be the anchor of SU's defense.
JS: Rakeem Christmas
JC: Rakeem Christmas -- if he's learned how to avoid fouling as much as he has in the past, there's little that can stop Christmas from being an elite stopper on the interior and commanding the glass for the Orange.
MM: Rakeem Christmas.He's developed his game and is the experienced Big in the zone.
JR: Michael Gbinije. He has the size and athleticism to defend four positions. His versatility will allow the team to go big or small, depending on matchups and foul trouble.
SF: Rakeem Christmas – The senior’s had a solid defensive career and it could get even better this season, playing alongside Chris McCullough.
SK: Rakeem Christmas, or at least, he better be.
BB: Michael Gbinije. He’s got great length for a guard and I imagine he’s going to create a lot of steals at the top of the zone with that frame. If the Orange played a man-to-man defense, I would bet he would be guarding the other team’s best wing.

Who Will Be The Best Sophomore?
MB
: Ron Patterson. If the exhibition games were any indication, he's going to be a nice scoring option off the bench.
JS: Ron Patterson.
JC: Ron Patterson -- guard play is a concern for SU heading into this season, but Buss could help settle those concerns a whole lot if he gets some extended minutes. He showed flashes of scoring prowess last year, and I expect him to expand upon that with more floor time.
MM: Tyler Roberson: He's a starter who will have the best opportunity to show himself early.
JR: Ron Patterson seems to have the mojo right now, but I think Tyler Roberson will end up as the best player when all is said and done.
SF: Ron Patterson – Get on the bus. Syracuse needs some scoring punch so Patterson will get much more playing time than last year.
SK: Buss Patterson. Ron-Ron will not be denied and he's ready to make the leap. Jump on the buss-wagon now.
BB: Ron Patterson. Johnson will play and Roberson should, too, but I think Patterson is the one who could make a real difference. The Orange needs shooting and that’s something he does very well.

Who Will Be The Best Freshman?
MB
: Kaleb Joseph. I chose him for MVP, so...
JS: Chris McCullough
JC: Chris McCullough -- with support from Christmas, the freshman big man will be able to play his game without the pressures of being the only option down low. That should help him get more comfortable within the offense and become a major factor for SU down the stretch.
MM: Tie between the big two.
JR: Joseph, because he will get more playing time and will have the ball in his hands more often. McCullough will be dependent on Joseph to get him the ball, and could find himself playing out of position at center on more than one occasion.
SF: Kaleb Joseph. I, honestly, think he’ll be another star. He may make more mistakes than Tyler Ennis, but he should develop more of the transition offense than last season.
SK: Chris McCullough. I think Joseph is going to be really good but I think McCullough is going to play like a sophomore/junior and really meet his ultra-high expectations. It might take a few weeks but he'll get there.
BB: Joseph. I think Chris McCullough goes pro, but I bet Joseph actually has a better season. He is getting the opportunity to make things happen immediately.

Who Will Be The Best Walk-On?
MB
: Doyin Akintobi-Adeyeye. I don't really know why. That name though! Adeyeye!
JS: Albert Nassar
JC: Carter Sanderson, mostly because Christian White can't play this year due to transfer rules. Sanderson earned plenty of playing time at Lipscomb and will be able to provide experience and poise off the bench as called upon.
MM: Um, Walker McWalkon
JR: Um, Donovan McNabb?
SF: Carter Sanderson. #NewhouseMafia
SK: Based on Twitterfeed alone, Carter Sanderson.
BB: Nassar. Um, he’s 6-6, so he has to be good. Right?

Most Likely To End Up In Boeheim's Doghouse All Season?
MB
: Tyler Roberson. He's already there!
JS: Tyler Roberson
JC: Tyler Roberson's already there, as we saw against Adrian, and it's doubtful he leaves any time soon.
MM: Roberson. A inexperienced sophomore? Uh oh...
JR: Roberson. This may be the biggest lock on the entire list. We should just get him a #11 "Harris" jersey now to complete the look. SF: Tyler Roberson – He’s got some pretty big shoes to fill in Jerami Grant and I’m just not sure he’s ready for that challenge.
SK: Tyler Roberson has moved in, paid six month rent in advance and had his name added to the utility bills.
BB: I think Roberson stays there for an extended period. Eventually he gets out, but I think it lasts a while.

Will DaJuan Coleman Play This Season?
MB
: Shit, I don't know. I can definitely envision him having setback after setback after setback. I recognize I'm pessimistic, but I'm leaning towards no at this point.
JC: Doubtful. It's heart-breaking to see DC struggle with injuries like this, but I haven't seen a prognosis that indicates he's in any state to hit the court this year.
MM: I'll guess that Coleman plays, maybe in January, but who knows at this point? I wouldn't be surprised at anything.
JR: Yes. I think SU will try to get him back for the ACC schedule. The are desperate for depth up front. Sadly, I don't think they want to burn a redshirt on him and have him here for two more years. Also, if he was going to transfer he would be gone by now, wouldn't he?
SF: No.
JR: No
SK: No. I mean, what's the point? If he's not going to be capable of playing until December or so, and that's not even when he's going to be at full-strength, why risk it? We can survive without an 80% DaJuan. Just let him take this season as a kind-of sabbatical to practice and get strong. It sucks for him and the program but think about the long-term for both.
BB: Yes, though I personally would recommend a redshirt season. I doubt you get much from him this year and I think it’s in his best interest to take the year off and start next season completely healthy.

What Will Trevor Cooney's 3PT% Be?
MB: 35%. He'll turn it around at some point. 40% from beyond the arc seems a little optimistic, but 35%? Doable.
JS: 32%
JC: I wish I could say he'd hit last year's 37.5% of threes, but based on what we saw in ACC play, I just don't see it happening. Let's go with 33% in a reduced role within the offense.
MM: He shot about thirty-seven percent last season. So, I'll go with thirty-nine for this year.
JR: Somewhere around 37%, same as last year. The averages aren't the issue. It's the inconsistency that hurts.
SF: Not nearly high enough.
SK: While we'll be quick to remember the ones he misses, Cooney actually makes more threes than you think overall. So I'm gonna go with 38%, a slight uptick from last year. Now if he can make the ones that matter...
BB: 40 percent. He shot about that last year and I don’t expect it to change much. He’s probably gotten better and I think this team gives him better spacing to work with.

Will Chris McCullough Go Pro In April?
MB
: I hope not. How awesome would it be if we had McCullough and Kaleb both back next year, another year of Cooney and Gbinije each, and our excellent 2015 recruiting class? Unfortunately, I think he's probably going pro.
JS: No.
JC: I wish I could say he'd hit last year's 37.5% of threes, but based on what we saw in ACC play, I just don't see it happening. Let's go with 33% in a reduced role within the offense.
MM: No. Mostly I base this on the fact Syracuse isn't likely to be a top-tier team. Meaning, less than normal coverage on SU and players.
JR: Yes. I'm sorry, but THIS is the biggest lock on the entire list.
SF: No, he’ll stick around for another year and lead the dominant 2015-16 Orange. But if Syracuse wins it all the year after I leave campus, I swear…
SK: Yes. My initial reaction is to say no because he's too young or that he won't be featured enough on this team but none of those things matter. The NBA Draft is about potential and he had the potential to grow into a star. If he puts up decent numbers this year, he'll get graded and he'll go.
BB: I think so. There was talk before he ever got to campus about him leaving after one season and the way Boeheim is recruiting Thomas Bryant when there isn’t a scholarship available says something about the situation. I mean, who else leaves early to create a spot?

What Will Syracuse Do In The 2K Classic a.k.a. Did Cal Get Back In This?
MB
: I'd like to think we'll win it, but Texas will probably beat 'Cuse in the final. Regardless, definitely think Cal can get back in this one.
JS: Syracuse takes the title.
JC: Crabbe and Cobb can't get hot, so I don't see how they can get right back in this. I think SU gets past the Golden Bears, but loses to Iowa or Texas in the final (not the worst thing in the world).
MM: Beats Cal, but loses to a better-than-you think Iowa team.
JR: They can certainly win it. This could be a good experience for them, similar to the Maui trip in 2013.
SF: Allen Crabbe, now of the Portland Trailblazers, cannot be found and, therefore, cannot get hot. Syracuse takes the title.
SK: I'm worried Cal is due to finally get back in this but I think we'll beat them and lose in the finals. I feel like Iowa will be waiting for us and, believe it not, they're actually pretty good.
BB: SU probably does well against Cal then loses to Texas. UT is a top team and I don’t think SU is going to be ready for that quality of an opponent yet.

How Will The Syracuse - Duke Series Play Out?
MB
: I think, like last season, we split with Duke. Syracuse might not be as talented as a season ago, but the Dome is going to be rocking on Valentines Day. The Orange won't lose that night.
JS: Duke 2-0
JC: Likely they split he series again, with the home team taking each leg. Both games will be close, but no jackets will be thrown.
MM: Awesome and entertaining! Right now, though, I think Duke wins both.
JR: Duke will win both. I think the game at the Dome will be tight, but it will be a blowout at Cameron. I am interested to see what Christmas can do with Okafor. If Rakeem gets in foul trouble, and Coleman is unavailable, SU is dead meat.
SF: Duke sweep. Yes, I’m your resident #DisloyalIdiot of the day. Bring on the hate.
SK: Oh I hate to say it but my gut says Duke 2, Syracuse 0. I hate that I feel it but I can't fight it.
BB: Duke probably wins both games. I expect the game in the Dome to be close but I don’t think SU can really win against that team right now. Competitive games, but not much more.

What Will Be Our ACCT Seed?
MB
: 4-seed
JS: 4-seed
JC: I'll project a fifth-seed for Syracuse in the ACC, with a 12-6 record in league play. They will out-play their seed by a round, though, and get to the semifinals. MM: Six-seed.
JR: 5th. I don't see them passing the ACC's "big four" of Duke, UNC, Louisville and Virginia unless there is a major to injury to one or more of those squads.
SF: Fourth. Another solid season, but just below the best.
SK: Five-seed. For the best, gives us a chance to get a winnable game to pad our stats.
BB: 4. I have a feeling that either North Carolina or Virginia will stumble a bit and lose a few more games than expected. Virginia has a stretch of back-to-back-to-back games against Duke, UNC and Louisville and it’s a real possibility it loses all three.

What Will Be Our NCAAT Seed?
MB
: 4-seed?
JS: 5-seed
JC: I'll go with a six-seed (so one of the nation's top 24 teams) and a trip to the Sweet 16. A year after falling short of expectations, Syracuse manages to exceed them slightly.
MM: Six-seed, maybe a seven depending.
JR: Somewhere in the 5-7 range.
SF: Seven. I’ll trust the all-knowing Joe Lunardi.
SK: I say five-seed. We got a 4-seed with eight losses in the Final Four season a few years back. If we're close to that, we won't be that much farther down.
BB: 5. I think SU will have a fine season and go in as a strong seed. It’s no No. 1 seed, but a 5 represents a great season.

Will Boeheim Retire?
MB
: Why would you ask that question? Well, I would expect it from you. I know you. Why ask that question?
JS: Nope, unless they win the NCAA Championship
JC
: What do you think I am, a disloyal idiot?
MM: Yes, he will officially retire...eventually.
JR: I asked him that in Twitter the other day. He didn't answer. I am so disillusioned.
SF: No way. Not going to leave before he gets to coach his beloved incoming recruiting class.
SK: Never. He's only written the first book in a trilogy and he hasn't gotten to the part yet where he fights for District 44.
BB: No.