The Syracuse Orange men’s basketball team is quickly approaching a season where expectations have risen again. They are returning all of their impact players from last year’s Sweet 16 run, and they are also adding some needed depth in the form of freshmen and transfer players.
With the increase in pressure to win, the Orange will likely provide us an even greater season of ups and downs — as we are so used to in the past. This team is versatile and has multiple playmakers on the perimeter, but it also isn’t perfect.
How are they ready to bring us to our feet, and what will they do to rip our hearts out and return us to ground level? The TNIAAM team has gathered for another roundtable to take a look at what they are most and least confident in for next season.
I’m pretty confident in this year’s Syracuse team’s ability to put the ball on the floor and get to the rim. Whether it be Frank Howard, Tyus Battle, or Oshae Brissett, the Orange have multiple playmakers on the perimeter than can create for themselves and others. It’s important for elite teams to have more than one option when it comes to creating offense, and the 2018-19 Orange have multiple veterans who can do so. Of course, the question will be whether the three can space the floor consistently, but I’m excited to watch this team attack the rim every chance they get. When it comes to what I’m most nervous about with this team, it has to be the lack of depth in the frontcourt. Injuries were a big problem for the Orange last year, and if one of the few frontcourt players goes down early, SU could be in some trouble. Coach Jim Boeheim needs Bourama Sidibe and Marek Dolezaj to make a big jump in their sophomore year, but staying healthy should be the number one concern for the bottom members of the zone.
I’d say I’m most confident in saying that this Syracuse team will play hard for 40 minutes. We saw a lot of fight from the group last year and with the leadership back I think we’ll continue to see a really strong effort from November until April. I’m least confident in the interior scoring this season. We saw Paschal Chukwu improve from the foul line and Sidibe showed flashes (especially in the game at Pitt), but does Syracuse have a player who can consistently finish around the rim? I believe Oshae Brissett and Dolezaj can both improve there, but they will have to prove it against the best ACC frontcourts.
I’d say I’m most comfortable with the defense considering Syracuse was statistically a top defensive team last season with great length at every position. Experience will help a great deal in that regard to boot. I’m least comfortable with the half court offense. What’s understood doesn’t need to be explained.
This season, I can absolutely say that Syracuse will make the NCAA Tournament. For the first time in what feels like a decade (more realistically, five years) there won’t be bitter arguments, racing hearts and coin flip odds on Selection Sunday regarding the Orange’s chances. This team’s depth can sustain minor injuries, its length can reproduce last season’s defensive brilliance and it features Tyus Battle to lean on when the going gets tough. While his timeliness on offense combined with an infusion of offensively-capable bench talent bodes well for improvement from rock bottom on that end of the floor, I’m not necessarily sure we can say ’Cuse will be good at offense yet. Inefficiency plagued last year’s team in part because of tons of isolation, a lack of fluid ball movement and few players to space the floor. If Jim Boeheim continues to lean primarily on his starting five for their defensive aptitude, it’s hard to imagine those factors changing substantially.
NCAA Tournament is the easy answer for “most confident,” but they get there via the contributions of Tyus Battle and Oshae Brissett most of all. I’m most confident in those two players being big factors on offense and all-conference types (at the very least) — especially Brissett who seemed ready to take the leap already at times last year. As far as where my confidence wanes, it’s in terms of scoring in the paint. When we did it well last year, Syracuse excelled. But when we failed inside, things seemed to fall apart rather quickly. Improvement from the bigs is a necessity, and hopefully they’re aided by Brissett, Battle and/or Howard driving more, too.
What about you? Leave your thoughts in the comment section below.