At one point this offseason, the Syracuse Orange women’s basketball team was a potential top-10 squad according to observers, and possibly the top team in the ACC. Then, the team was rattled by Tiana Mangakahia’s breast cancer diagnosis and her resulting absence for 2019-20. As a result, it seems others have cooled on Syracuse’s chances this season — something that coach Quentin Hillsman said was insulting.
On Wednesday, the ACC released its preseason projections and player honors, and little was made of Syracuse beyond a sixth place finish in both the Blue Ribbon and head coaches polls. There was a sizeable distance between SU and fifth place (Miami) from the Blue Ribbon panel. On the coaches side, just nine votes separated the Orange from fifth-place Notre Dame.
Syracuse will look different this year without Mangakahia and clearly aren’t better without her on the court. However, there’s still a lot of talent on this roster — potentially enough to withstand her loss to a greater extent than expected. Digna Strautmane, Maeva Djaldi-Tabdi, Kiara Lewis, Gabrielle Cooper and Amaya Finklea-Guity all return, and they’re joined by a fleet of highly-ranked recruits from the last couple years (including Emily Engstler) and Rhode Island transfer Elemy Colomé.
We’ll have a full season preview before the season starts. But know early that this isn’t a group that’s just retreating without its top player. Lewis has stated she’s ready for her larger role this season, and there’s plenty of ability around her, too. That may not mean the same team they would’ve been. It still could mean success, though.
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Syracuse, Duke and Clemson were picked sixth, seventh and eighth in both polls, followed by North Carolina, Virginia Tech, Georgia Tech, Virginia, Boston College, Pitt and Wake Forest in the head coaches poll. The Blue Ribbon Panel voted North Carolina, Virginia Tech, Virginia, Georgia Tech, Boston College, Pitt and Wake Forest to round out the poll.
“Me and Tiana play two different styles. So what she did last year is what she did and then I’m my own person. I’m not really pressured or anything. It’s what I’m used to,” Lewis said of her expanded role. “It’s going to be a slight adjustment. But it’s something I’m used to. It’s nothing really totally new. I’ve been working hard all summer, preseason. So I’m very excited. I’m ready for it.”
When he arrived, he tried to kick as hard as he could. But Dixon was training with Hofrichter in 2015, and he saw something he thought Hofrichter could change. His advice: go nice and easy. “Don’t kill the ball,” Hofrichter says. “That’s the biggest thing I’ve learned. Extend my legs. It’s all ball contact. The ball flies if you hit it well. It’s not about hitting it hard. Just be easy and smooth.”
“Everyone looks at the young players. Well, your young players should be developing, but you have to lean on the older players. Our best players have to be our best players. They have to play well. The other guys are just coming. The little brothers are just coming. The big brothers have to play well.”
Syracuse’s secondary and offensive line provide Pitt with exploitable matchups (Pittsburgh Post-Gazette)
The film Ffrench and his position mates studied this week was of a Syracuse Orange defense that has allowed 276.8 passing yards per game, 111th out of 130 teams in the Football Bowl Subdivision. Ffrench and Taysir Mack, whose 91 combined receptions lead all receiver duos in the FBS, should have the opportunity to make plays Friday night in the Carrier Dome. Still, Ffrench said, the defense on film did not look like one that ranked in the bottom 20%.
The seven numbers that will define Syracuse’s season (The Athletic)