With the Syracuse Orange men's basketball season nearing its regular-season start it is time for 'Cuse fans to read up on the 2014-15 squad. The prep work is critical to one's basketball fandom, as there's a lot of brand new faces on this year's roster.
Our first roster breakdown will be of the guards – a position that has become vitally important to Jim Boeheim's modern-day success and has probably kept him coaching well into his 60s.
For the fourth straight season, the Orange will be starting a different player at point guard, as freshman Kaleb Joseph overtakes the position held by Scoop Jardine, Michael Carter-Williams and Tyler Ennis, respectively. For three consecutive seasons, these players were staples as floor generals combining to win 92 games, which include a school record 25-game winning streak, a Big East Conference regular season title, a Final Four appearance and just 19 losses.
|Scoop Jardine (2011-12)||25.2||8.9||4.9||1.4||2.3||0.474||0.551||0.379||34||3|
|Michael Carter-Williams (2012-13)||35.2||11.9||7.3||2.8||3.4||0.393||0.694||0.292||30||10|
|Tyler Ennis (2013-14)||35.7||12.9||5.5||2.1||1.7||0.411||0.765||0.353||28||6|
Needless to say, Joseph will need to replace a lot of success, however, Boeheim and company seem like they're confident he can do it. At Syracuse's preseason media day, Oct 24, Boeheim gushed over the freshman saying he is just as talented as MCW or Ennis.
"He's as hard a worker as any point guard we've ever had -- probably as any guard we've ever had. And he understands the game. I think he has been very good in practices. There's really two tests for a freshman: how do you handle practices, and he's certainly done that, and now how does he handle game conditions, game situations, and nobody knows the answer to that. Some guys exceed your expectations, not my expectations, I don't really think that way, but some people exceed expectations and others maybe don't quite get there. But he's a very talented point guard, we are very happy to have him."
On Sunday, the Cushing Academy alum backed up Boeheim's praises by leading all Orange scorers with 19 points in his (pre-season) collegiate debut, a 76-68 exhibition victory over visiting Carleton University. He not only showed the ability to score, but he also protected the ball (one turnover), snagged four rebounds, dished out four assists and added a steal.
On his way to pacing the Orange, Joseph showed he has the ability to drive to the basket and finish strong with his right hand, knockdown a step-back or mid-range jumper.
'Cuse fans shouldn't expect Joseph to always lead the team in scoring -- as Boeheim pointed out at media day, Joseph is "different" from MCW and Ennis – however, when it comes to being a playmaker with the pass and handling the ball with care, he should be fine.
The thing to watch out for is average minutes played per game. Last season, Ennis averaged 35.6 per game. Expect Joseph to average just as many or more than that.
Another video: Rivals Nation (2013) - Episode 2 "Kaleb Joseph on the Rise"
If Joseph does have freshman struggles do not expect Boeheim to pull the plug on him right away. Do anticipate him wanting more from fourth-year junior Michael Gbinije, who's going to be more of a focal point in the offense than last season, which saw him battle inconsistent playing time throughout the season.
For the time being, "Silent G" (that's his nickname because the "G" in his last name is silent. So, stop calling him Gug-binjy, folks) will come off the bench, playing Boeheim's sixth-man; a role which Kris Joseph, Dion Waiters and Jerami Grant have thrived in.
As showcased in Sunday's victory, Gbinije will mainly play small forward, forcing sophomore forward Tyler Roberson to be Boeheim's "early hook guy", but also, the Orange's main ball handler when Joseph leaves the court–a skill he picked up last off season when he became Ennis' primary backup. This means a bunch more playing minutes for the former Duke transfer, who played 35 minutes on Sunday.
At 6-foot-7, Gbinije will be one of the nation's tallest guards when he's thrust into the position. His height could be a big asset atop the 2-3 zone, but Boeheim will mainly ask him to be a staple on the wings because Roberson has shown he still can't be counted on defensively.
|Michael Gbinije Best Games||MPG||Points||FG-FGA||3P-3PA||ASP||SPG|
|vs. Colgate (Nov. 16)||18||11||3-7||0-2||3||1|
|At Pitt (Feb 12)||22||7||1-3||1-2||1||0|
|At Duke (Feb 22)||20||8||2-5||2-4||0||2|
|vs. Dayton (March 22)||22||8||4-5||0-1||0||0|
Overall, expect Gbinije to be one of the Orange's top scorers, mainly because of his versatility, but his sneakiest skill could be on the boards where his physical attributes could help out. It did on Sunday when he snagged six rebounds.
What will junior Trevor Cooney and sophomore Ron Patterson bring to the shooting guard table this year? That's another huge question that needs to be answered for this 2014-15 squad.
Sunday's exhibition showcased the best and worst from each player, as Cooney missed every field goal he attempted while Patterson went 4-for-5 from behind the 3-point line and was one of the huge reasons why the Orange avoided an early-season upset.
Unfortunately, if Syracuse would like to be successful this season, this scenario should play out with Cooney making a majority of his shots and Patterson playing good defense and making open 3-pointers in reserve minutes.
Early last season, Cooney showed he can be a vital part of the SU offense. Making almost 43 percent of his 3-point attempts Cooney helped SU race out to a school-best 25-0 record. However, once the rest of his teammates started missing a majority of their shots and defenses keyed on him specifically, his percentage dropped dramatically.
|Trevor Cooney (2013-14)||GMS||3PTA||3PTM||3PT%||SU's Record|
|During SU's 25-Game Winning Streak||25||177||76||0.429||24-0|
|After Winning Streak||10||63||14||0.222||4-6|
So, to say Sunday's performance was a bit disheartening is an understatement. Sure, the game didn't count and shooters are streaky, but it seemed the junior is right back to where he was when he was a freshman when he made just 27 percent of his 3-pointers.
Some say Cooney's issues are all mental and all he needs to do is make some shots or not be the single guy counted on to hit threes on a consistent basis. Patterson could be the one to help with that.
The 6-2 product from Brewster Academy comes into this season as a bit of a enigma. From last year's experiences, Syracuse fans know he likes to shoot whenever he gets the chance–when he was open Sunday he did not show any hesitation to take a shot–and, according to Jim Boeheim, we know the sophomore can be a spark on defense.
However, what is going to hold him back is his consistency.
@bswpsu84 "Boeheim: Ron Patterson makes every shot 2 days out of 7. Today was one of the 2 days." coach always looking on the Brightside— MFBrightside (@MFBrightside) November 3, 2014
If Patterson can turn into a hidden gem and give Syracuse a nice four-guard rotation, then things could be looking up for the Orange. However, dependability and consistency has been the reason why this position has been so successful for Boeheim over the last few seasons. It is still unknown, as a group, if they can deliver it all.