Since Syracuse has eight underclassmen expected to see time next season, Boeheim planned the trip to help his squad gain experience. The Orange will play four games in Italy, but the biggest benefit comes from increased access to the players this summer.
NCAA rules allow teams 10 practices before these international trips so Syracuse will get a jump on building on-court cohesion as they mix in the newcomers to the rotation. According to Boeheim, the Orange are using this time to integrate a new offensive play (motion, please?) and some man-to-man defense. Yes you read that correctly. Boeheim said he’d see how this squad looks playing man to man defense to see if it’s an option this season.
“I would never gamble in a game during the regular season, but if you gamble over there and it doesn’t work, it’s not going to be a problem,” he said. “Until I see them I don’t know that there’s not some possibility that we won’t play some man-to-man. So we’ll see how this team is and then after we get through practices in the fall, we’ll decide if we play it in some situations.”
Now don’t get worried that the 2-3 zone is going away as we all know what’s going to happen once the season kicks off against the Virginia Cavaliers. The extra time just gives Boeheim and the coaching staff an opportunity to look at some different options including an alteration to the Syracuse press. Without Pascal Chukwu at the back end of the press, an alternate look might make sense. But this year’s roster has some athletes who could be effective in a pressure defense.
The Orange are replacing most of their scoring options from last season, so we hope that the early practices give the staff time to adapt the offense to the strength of the roster. Elijah Hughes will certainly draw a lot of attention from opposing defenses so finding ways to get him open looks will be key. We know that expectations are high on Jalen Carey so his progression will be something to watch for when the Orange head overseas.
The four games in Italy won’t be about wins and losses but more about seeing the new roster in game situations. What do you hope to see from the Syracuse team when they take the floor next month? And will the new offense play be dubbed “chicken parm?”