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Previewing the 2018-19 Syracuse men’s basketball team

It’s almost that time.

Syracuse v Michigan State Photo by Elsa/Getty Images

Welcome to October! As fall is upon us, we are slowly but surely getting closer to college basketball season which means it’s about time to get Syracuse Orange basketball coverage into full swing.

Syracuse figures to be ranked to start the preseason, which also means that the national media will focus in on the Orange in various previews including top player rankings. Obviously one of the few online publications that you trust is TNIAAM, so we’ve got you covered.

Key returners: Jim Boeheim (43rd season), The 2-3 zone, Tyus Battle, Oshae Brissett, Frank Howard, Marek Dolezaj, Paschal Chukwu, Bourama Sidibe.

Syracuse brings back Boeheim for his James Southerland year and a top five ranked defense (Ken Pom). All starters are back and another year better.

Key losses: Matthew Moyer, Darius Bazley

Moyer transferred to Vanderbilt after occupying the Boeheim Doghouse (TM) for much of 2017-18. Technically Bazley is a loss despite never enrolling at Syracuse. Not even Bazley himself knows what he’s doing this year.

Welcome additions: Jalen Carey, Elijah Hughes, Buddy Boeheim, Robert Braswell

Syracuse’s lack of depth won’t be a problem this year, at least in terms of available bodies. Boeheim has multiple options at guard, Hughes can play either the off guard or slide down to forward and rumor has it Braswell could steal some minutes this year. Still, we know how Boeheim likes to trim his rotation after the holiday season.

Projected starting five: Same as last year of course (read: Howard, Battle, Brissett, Dolezaj, Chukwu)

NCAA Basketball: ACC Conference Tournament-North Carolina vs Syracuse Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports

2017-2018 Recap

Record: 23-14 (8-10), Advanced to NCAA Tournament Sweet 16

Syracuse started the year with NCAA Tournament aspirations and appeared to be a fringe tournament team with a plethora of unknowns.

The Orange returned a freshman in Tyus Battle who came on strong in conference play in his first season, but it remained to be seen how Battle would react to being the number one offensive option and being on the top of every opponent’s scout. Frank Howard was coming off a somewhat disappointing sophomore season, while two newcomers in Geno Thorpe and Howard Washington rounded out the backcourt.

Syracuse had three freshmen at forward who had not played an official minute for Boeheim as Oshae Brissett, Marek Dolezaj and Matthew Moyer looked to solidify the back line of the 2-3 zone.

Paschal Chukwu was coming off an eye injury while freshman Bourama Sidibe figured to serve as his understudy. To say that there was a great deal of uncertainty surrounding this team would be an understatement, but the fan base at least bought in on what could be.

The Orange got off to a hot start beating Maryland in the ACC/Big Ten Challenge and taking down former Big East rivals UConn and Georgetown in the non-conference. Still, Syracuse lost to Kansas —and Thorpe who left the team before that game — in Miami and St. Bonaventure at home before heading into conference play, but SU did pick up an ever-so-important win over Buffalo in the dome that would pay dividends come March.

Syracuse got off to a rough start in conference play with a 1-4 record and also losing Washington to a torn ACL and MCL, but the Orange rebounded with three straight wins over the conference’s basement dwellers in Pitt (twice) and BC. Not for a lack of effort, Syracuse dropped a few more to tough conference foes, but the team continued to fight in close games and picked up key victories against Louisville and Miami on the road and Clemson at home.

Syracuse got to the 20-win threshold with a win over Wake in the ACC Tournament before falling to North Carolina the next night.

The team heard its name called on Selection Sunday, but was the last team invited to the Big Dance and would head to Dayton for the First Four. The Orange would then rattle off three victories in five days in the tournament’s first week, beating Arizona State, TCU and title-contender Michigan State in succession. Syracuse would then fall to Duke in the Sweet 16, an impressive, grit-filled run that showcased the resolve of the 2017-2018 season.

Syracuse v Duke Photo by Jamie Squire/Getty Images

2018-2019 Outlook

Syracuse should return to national relevancy and could very well be ranked for the entirety of the college basketball season. All starters are back and if the Orange can pick up where they left off with some new faces in the fold, SU is looking like a tough out for any opponent.

While it would be foolish to predict this team’s tournament finish in March, Syracuse figures not to be on the bubble this year — the Orange should realistically compete for a seed line between the three and five range.

Myriad things can happen that would alter that potential seed line and Syracuse has a long way to go, but in the interim I won’t tell you not to be overzealous of what could be with Syracuse this season. I’m all for celebration, so take heart in your team and rejoice. There’s a lot of be excited about for what could very well be the best preseason Syracuse team to take to the hardwood since 2011-2012.

Big non-conference games: UConn (Nov. 15), Oregon/Iowa (Nov. 16), @ Ohio State (Nov. 28), Georgetown (Dec. 8), Buffalo (Dec. 18)

Big ACC games: @ Duke (Jan. 14), @ Virginia Tech (Jan. 26), Duke (Feb. 23), @ North Carolina (Feb. 26), Virginia (Mar. 4)

Other areas of interest

Syracuse returns as the tallest team in the country from 2017-18 and Marek Dolezaj grew and inch in the offseason! Frank Howard is also out with a foot injury for now but is expected to return for the first game of the season on Nov. 6. The Orange will also have the chance to take back the attendance crown this year and mark your calendar for Feb. 23 — the College GameDay crew just might be making its way back to Central New York for the Syracuse vs. Duke game.

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What do you guys think? Is there anything we might have missed? How excited are you for the season to start? Drop a comment or two below.