The 2019-20 Syracuse Orange men’s basketball season is right around the corner. On Monday, the preseason top 25 AP poll was released. Unsurprisingly, Syracuse did not make the cut. They did receive three tallies in the “Others Receiving Votes” section, however.
This shouldn’t come as a huge shock to Syracuse fans. When you lose a lot of your key contributors from the previous season, it’s very difficult to determine how good the team will be. This is especially true when you’re coming off a rather disappointing season like the Orange have. Last year’s team was ranked 16th in the preseason, but ended up unranked and ousted in the first round of the NCAA tournament.
That didn’t deter Rick Bozich from WDRB-TV (in Louisville) from putting Syracuse 23rd on his initial ballot, however.
So what should we expect from this year’s team? The truth is, no one can say for sure. Everyone thought last year’s team would be great with so much returning talent. They ended up pretty average. This year’s team has lots of promise, but not much experience. That makes it even tougher to predict their outcome.
Speaking of predictions, KenPom also recently released their preseason rankings for every division 1 school for the upcoming season.
The Orange clocked in at No. 51 overall, which might alarm many fans with thoughts of yet another bubble year. And the truth is, that number isn’t surprising either. Replacing four of your top six in points and rebounds, including your entire starting back court and starting center, is tough to overcome.
A heavy burden has been placed on our few returning players to step up in a big way. Elijah Hughes, Buddy Boeheim, Marek Dolezaj, Jalen Carey, and Bourama Sidibe all will need to make significant strides this year for Syracuse basketball to stay relevant in February and March.
It’s additionally tough when you play in the most competitive conference in college basketball. The Orange will play as many as 10 games against the KenPom preseason top 50 (a guaranteed five games against the top six teams), and another 12 games that are KenPom top 100. In fact, the only sub-200 schools that Syracuse basketball will play all year are Cornell and Niagara.
The non-conference schedule looks to be fairly mediocre, with top-50 games against Iowa, Oklahoma St., and possibly Penn St. should they beat Mississippi. But there are no really weak teams outside of the two mentioned above (and possibly North Florida) that will ruin the non-conference strength of schedule (NCSOS).
SU’s schedule has several games against teams in the preseason AP poll as well. The ranked teams they’ll face this year include:
It appears to be a bit of a down year for the ACC, with only those four teams ranked in the AP preseason poll, but a lot can change over the next couple of months. I wouldn’t be surprised if we end up playing several more games against fringe top 25 teams.
Now that we’ve got the schedule out of the way, let’s talk about the offense and defense.
First up, the offense: KenPom has us ranked 78th in adjusted offensive efficiency, and that’s reasonable. Over the last five seasons, Syracuse basketball hasn’t finished higher than 30th, and were well over the 100 mark in two different seasons (135th in 2018 and 117th in 2015). And as mentioned, they lost four of their top six scorers from last year’s team.
The hope is that the offensive tempo for this season will improve with quick guards like Carey and Brycen Goodine. It appears that we might have the weapons and speed to run and gun a bit more in transition. I think easy points off turnovers and fast breaks will be key to this team’s success on offense.
But in reality, anything would be an improvement over the last two seasons, where we finished ranked 257th and 345th respectively in adjusted tempo. KenPom’s estimation for this year is 276th for tempo, but I don’t think that will be at all reflective of reality by the end of the year.
This team needs to run to be successful, and I think Carey, Goodine, Buddy Boeheim, and the rest of the guards know it. And if Italy gave us any indication, this team is certainly willing to get out and go. It will all come down to execution against stiffer competition.
As for the defense, KenPom is rather high on us for the preseason prediction, putting us at 22nd. Since a lot of it is based around what the team did last year, it makes sense. We finished 30th in 2019.
I’m a bit surprised we’re ranked even higher this year based on the defensive talent we lost. Top 25 is lofty expectations for a team with so many new faces. If we can somehow manage to finish around that ranking, I think we are in for a great season.
Numbers have not yet been released for strength of schedule (SOS) for conference or non-conference, but it’s safe to say that Syracuse should have a fairly high ranking simply from playing in the ACC. Every conference opponent that the Orange face, other than Boston College, is ranked in the KenPom preseason top 100.
With so much in flux for this Syracuse basketball season, it’s very important to take these preseason rankings with a grain of salt. It’s impossible to predict how well the freshmen will play, or if the rest of the team will see improvement, or end up regressing or stagnating like last year.
Time will tell, but there is certainly room for optimism with the talent and shooters available. After years of being handcuffed by sanctions or injuries, we actually have some depth. How do you think the team will perform this year? Let us know in the comments!