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Syracuse women’s basketball faces tough road ahead in ACC play

The 14th-ranked Syracuse women may just have their best team ever to start a season

NCAA Womens Basketball: Final Four Championship Game-Syracuse vs Connecticut Brian Spurlock-USA TODAY Sports

Quentin Hillsman’s Syracuse Orange women’s basketball team finds themselves ranked 14th in the preseason AP poll, matching their highest ranking in program history. The Orange return a strong squad from their 2016 NCAA Finals run last year, including Alexis Peterson and Brittney Sykes.

This Syracuse team is experienced and poised to make another run at the national title. It was recently announced that senior guard Alexis Peterson was named to the 2017 Lieberman Award watch list. The Lieberman Award recognizes the top point guard in women’s Division I college basketball. Last year, Peterson was named Sioux Falls Regional Most Outstanding Player, All-ACC First Team, ACC All-Defensive Team, and earned All-ACC tournament awards. Continually, Peterson performed when it mattered most, averaging 20.7 points per game in the Orange’s nine postseason games.

The Orange are also returning experience in Brittney Sykes who ranks eighth in Syracuse women’s basketball history with 104 career starts. Sykes is stout offensively averaging 10.3 points per game in 2016 and offers much on the defensive end of the floor, registering 77 steals on the year in 2016. The Orange also return quality experience in Isabella Slim and transfer Jasmine Nwajei who set the career scoring record at Wagner.

One of the premier women’s college basketball conferences in the nation, the ACC boasts five programs ranked in the preseason AP Poll, creating the opportunity for the Orange to be battle tested by the time the tournament rolls around.

The Notre Dame Fighting Irish begin the year ranked number one in the AP polls and appear to be rolling after defeating Roberts Wesleyan in an exhibition 129-50. The Irish had six players in double figures and forced 27 turnovers in the game. The Irish clearly pose a tough test to every team in the nation.

The Louisville Cardinals are ranked number five in the preseason polls by the Associated Press. Head coach Jeff Walz comes into the season with an experienced roster that is hungry from their disappointing NCAA Tournament loss in the second round to DePaul last year.

Florida State begins the year ranked twelfth in the AP Preseason poll. In the past two seasons, the Seminoles have advanced to the Elite Eight and Sweet 16 respectively boasting 57 total wins, the greatest two-year stretch in program history. The Seminoles return All-American starters and will certainly make their presence known in the conference and nationally.

The Miami Hurricanes come into the season tied with the Orange at fourteen in the preseason AP poll. The Hurricanes play a fast-paced, run and gun style of basketball that can give any team fits on any given night. Furthermore, the Hurricanes return an experienced core and will seek to wreak havoc on a national level.

The Syracuse women’s basketball team faces a formidable task in pursuit of an ACC Championship as well as a national championship. However, with the talented roster that Quentin Hillsman has assembled, there is no goal too lofty for the Orange this season.