The 2018-19 Syracuse Orange men’s basketball season ended in the first round of the NCAA Tournament last Thursday against Baylor. I still haven’t even had time to digest or properly grieve the end of the season and we’re already looking ahead to next year.
We’re less than one week removed from the end of the 2018-19 season and I’ve already missed the boat for the 2019-20 Syracuse basketball preview. You sh*tting me, man? We have no time to talk about or process what happened and instead bypass the emotions of the season’s end and immediately turn the page to next season? Pretty soon everyone’s Way-Too-Early-Top-25 rankings are going to drop before the Sweet 16.
With that, I guess we’re overdue for an early (or late) look ahead to the 2019-20 Syracuse basketball season. So let’s dive into that and let me start by saying that Syracuse likely won’t be appearing in any Way-Too-Early-Top-25 lists. The Orange will lose Frank Howard while Paschal Chukwu and Tyus Battle have opted out of their respective eligibility as it stands now.
Assuming nobody transfers — which I wouldn’t take to the bank — Syracuse will return (by eligibility) juniors in Oshae Brissett, Elijah Hughes, Marek Dolezaj and Bourama Sidibe, sophomores in Jalen Carey, Buddy Boeheim, Howard Washington and Robert Braswell and bring in a big freshman class consisting of Joe Girard, Quincy Guerrier, Brycen Goodine and John Bol Ajak. Thats broken down by position below.
PG: Jalen Carey | Howard Washington | Brycen Goodine
SG: Buddy Boeheim | Joe Girard
SF: Elijah Hughes | Robert Braswell (aka Big Bad Bobby Bras)
PF: Oshae Brissett | Quincy Guerrier
C: Marek Dolezaj | Bourama Sidibe | John Bol Ajak
Syracuse has a chance to be a really balanced offensive team in 2019-20 without having to rely so much on a ball-dominant guards to create and generate offense. Then again, Carey has the potential to flourish in PnR scenarios so don’t be surprised to see high ball screens next year like we’ve seen in years past from Syracuse.
Syracuse should be a better from beyond the arc, spacing the floor with shooters in Boeheim, Hughes, Girard and perhaps Braswell. That could be of huge benefit to Brissett inside. Both he and Hughes will have to step up into leadership roles for the first times in their college careers. With no seniors, the junior class will have to step up as a whole as Sidibe and Dolezaj will likely also have expanded roles.
The center position leaves the most to be desired at this juncture. Sidibe hasn’t had a clean bill of health in his first two seasons, Bol Ajak can shoot a bit as the likely third option in the middle and the coaching staff is actively recruiting for another center for 2019 and oh my goodness Dolezaj is going to play the lion’s share of minutes at center next season isn’t he?
The starting backcourt will experience an overhaul, but Buddy Boeheim and Carey each started and earned meaningful minutes at some point in their freshmen seasons. Goodine and Girard could push for playing time from day one and Howard Washington will be in the mix in his third year at Syracuse after suffering a stroke last fall.
It remains possible that Hughes could slide up to the two, but with a loaded backcourt I’d be willing to bet he’ll stay at forward and that Dolezaj will earn more minutes at center as Brissett and Guerrier round out the forward rotation as Braswell likely takes another year to develop. Brissett and Guerrier seem to have a similar style of play, so it’ll be interesting to see if they play at the same time next year at opposite forward positions or if the skillset of Hughes is preferred to offset one of Brissett/Guerrier.
All that to say, I think Syracuse will go as far as its junior class will take it in 2019-20. This isn’t a team that’s going to wow anyone on paper, but this could be a formidable group that comes together. The offense should be better, but we know Boeheim embraces changes to his offensive sets like Jay Bilas lobbies for longer referee replay reviews. The defense should be solid, but not overwhelming with length like it was this past season. That doesn’t mean it can’t be effective, though.
While I’d be hesitant to prognosticate next season’s finish given that the roster will likely change slightly from now until next fall, the fact that it’s way too early to tell how this team will jell and it’d be a downright fool’s errand to even think of something like that without seeing the schedule, I mean to tell you that Syracuse is going to be back on the bubble again in 2020 and ride that all the way into Selection Sunday as Joe Lunardi has a field day profiting off of clicks from Syracuse fans next January through March.
What about you though? How do you think Syracuse will be in 2019-20? Disagree with the projected starters? Drop some jokes and garbage below.