We’re still four months away from the 2019-20 Syracuse Orange men’s basketball season, but next month the team will travel to Italy as part of a preseason tour and compete in four exhibition games. There are numerous unknowns about this squad when considering roster turnover, role players looking to step into leadership positions and how the five incoming freshmen will mesh with the aforementioned returnees.
With that, we take a look at some of the more pressing questions surrounding the team. Perhaps some of these questions will be answered, or we’ll at least have greater clarity, during the Italy tour.
1) Point guard play
No question looms larger for Syracuse than the point guard spot, in my opinion. The importance of the role can’t be overstated enough. When Syracuse has had steady play from the one, the team has usually experienced some sort of success (Jardine 2012, MCW 2013, Ennis 2014, Gbinije 2016, Howard 2018). When the Orange have had poor play from the point like it did in 2015, 2017 and 2019, success has been few and far between. Not all of this falls on the one, but it’s generally been an indicator of success at Syracuse.
What will the Orange get from its point this year? Will Jalen Carey make the sophomore leap? If he doesn’t, will Howard Washington be able to step in after having a miraculous recovery from a stroke and heart surgery? Brycen Goodine is the highest rated of the incoming freshmen class — can he run the offense as a frosh?
2) Backcourt rotation
Tying the point guard position into the backcourt as a whole, what will the orange backcourt rotation look like in 2019-20? Buddy Boeheim is probably a lock at the starting shooting guard, but who backs him up off the bench? Joe Girard comes in as the all-time leading scorer in the state of New York and Brycen Goodine is a long, athletic guard that the Orange typically like. Washington will be a redshirt sophomore as he enters his third year at Syracuse, but are he and Carey pegged as lead guards? Someone will get cut out of the rotation, but depth in the backcourt is a luxury that Syracuse has lacked in recent years.
3) What type of defense will Jim Boeheim employ?
4) But how good will the 2-3 zone be?
With the exception of 2016-17, the zone has been among the top 30 in adjusted defensive efficiency (Ken Pom) every season in the past decade. That said, Syracuse gets a little smaller up top after losing Frank Howard and Tyus Battle.
The zone should still be good in 2019-20, but how will the new players adjust and how the new three point line have an effect (if any) on the zone?
5) Who will score the ball for Syracuse?
Shifting gears to the other end of the floor, Syracuse looks to replace four of its top six scorers, which accounted for 63 percent of its total offensive point production.
Elijah Hughes proved that he could score in bunches last season, particularly from range. This season he’ll have to score at a higher clip and do more off the bounce. How will he respond after going from to the second or third option on offense to the top of opponents’ scouting reports?
Quincy Guerrier could be a solid second scoring option from the wing but can role players such as Marek Dolezaj or even Robert Braswell increase their scoring? Will the Orange get enough production from the backcourt to win games and will the centers offer anything on the offensive end? This could be the best offensive group of centers that Boehiem has had in a long time, but rarely are the centers emphasized on that end.
6) Center production
Speaking of, Syracuse has a bevy of options at centers this year. Bourama Sidibe is back for his junior year, but will he be healthy enough to be effective? Word on the street is that freshmen Jesse Edwards and John Bol Ajak have some offensive game and even a little range to boot, but will either of them grasp the zone quickly enough to earn minutes?
Of course, it wouldn’t be a surprise to see Dolezaj slide into the center spot. He’s challenged in there at 180 lbs (soaking wet with a stomach full of pizza), but did prove that he can be effective in the middle for stretches at a time.
What did we miss? Any other pressing Syracuse basketball questions for 2019-20? Drop a comment below.