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Syracuse men’s basketball 2019-20 season preview

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College basketball preview season has arrived.

Louisville v Syracuse Photo by Rich Barnes/Getty Images

Summer isn’t officially over just yet, but it sure does feel that way. The weather has started to cool, kids are back in school and the calendar has been flipped to September. This of course means that it’s everyone’s favorite time of year: Football college basketball season preview szn.

Pretty soon your social media feed will include tweets from Jay Bilas about the Blue Ribbon College Basketball Yearbook. After that we’ll all be somehow be talking about Zion WIlliamson and Duke. But before then, we have preview season.

I bet you didn’t know that Athlon Sports already has its college basketball magazine in stores and Elijah Hughes made the regional cover (along with Seton Hall’s Myles Powell).

Anyway, as it relates to these parts of the web, we’re going to preview the 2019-20 Syracuse Orange men’s basketball team. Grab your pumpkin spiced latte and dive in.

Returnees: Jim Boeheim (44th season as head coach), the 2-3 zone, Elijah Hughes, Buddy Boeheim, Marek Dolezaj, Bourama Sidibe, Jalen Carey, Robert Braswell, Howard Washington

Believe it or not, Jim Boeheim is back for his 44th season as head coach of Syracuse. He enrolled at SU during the Kennedy Administration (really) and hasn’t truly left since. He brings back the 2-3 zone along with Elijah Hughes, Marek Dolezaj, Bourama Sidibe, Jalen Carey, Robert Braswell, Howard Washington and his son, Buddy.

The Orange have no seniors no the roster, eligibility wise, for the second time in three seasons. Oddly enough, the 2017-18 and 2019-20 teams are the only two in Boeheim’s 44-year coaching tenure without a senior. (The 2007-08 roster featured Josh Wright and the 2008-09 season featured Kristof Ongenaet.)

Losses: Tyus Battle, Oshae Brissett, Paschal Chukwu, Frank Howard

The Orange lost four of its five starters from a season ago as Battle and Brissett both departed early for the NBA. Chukwu and Howard, Syracuse’s seniors from a season ago, are playing professional basketball in Greece and Hungary, respectively.

Additions: Brycen Goodine, Joe Girard, Quincy Guerrier, John Bol Ajak, Jesse Edwards

On paper, this isn’t a recruiting class that jumps off the page. Syracuse brings in the No. 32 ranked class in the country, good for a No. 7 ranking in the ACC, per 247.

Still, the Orange bring in five quality players that are perhaps underrated as a class given that Guerrier and Edwards are international players. Guerrier is expected to make an impact from the jump, while Goodine and Girard will push for playing time. Edwards and Ajak will compete for the backup center position.

This is a class that the coaching staff can build around for the next few years and one that might potentially bridge the gap past the Boeheim era, but that’s a conversation for another day.

COLLEGE BASKETBALL: DEC 08 Georgetown at Syracuse Photo by Gregory Fisher/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

Projected Starters: Jalen Carey, Buddy Boeheim, Elijah Hughes, Quincy Guerrier, Bourama Sidibe

Carey and the younger Boeheim will assuredly get the nod as the starting backcourt and Hughes is a lock at forward. Everyone’s favorite Slovak in Syracuse could very well slide into the forward spot opposite Hughes if Guerrier becomes sixth man. Sidibe is a likely starter in the middle if healthy.

Dolezaj has played center in the past, but Boeheim, the elder, has said that Dolezaj will play exclusively at forward this season. He didn’t play on the Italy trip though as he nursed a broken finger. Hope that wasn’t the pizza eating hand.

2018-19 Recap: Record: 20-14 (10-8), First round loss in the NCAA Tournament

Syracuse returned every starter from the 2017-18 Sweet 16 team, but the inefficiencies from the previous year showed why the Orange were a borderline tournament team in 2018. The Orange came into the preseason ranked with the aforementioned starters returning, a newly eligible Hughes and welcome additions in Carey and Boeheim as freshmen.

Despite that, the team struggled to put the pieces of the puzzle together as Howard never quite returned to form following a preseason ankle injury that kept him out for two months. Brissett and Battle didn’t play up to the level of consistency as they did the previous season. The holes of the zone were apparent at center as Chukwu lost his starting position early in ACC play and Sidibe never returned to full strength after his freshman year tendinitis.

The 2-3 zone was good enough to finish at No. 30 in KenPom, but the offense once again struggled as it was over-reliant on Battle to create.

Howard turned the corner for the ACC Tournament, dropping 28 points on Duke, but was suspended indefinitely for the NCAA Tournament. Syracuse earned a No. 8 seed but fell to Baylor in the first round of the tournament in Salt Lake City.

Syracuse v North Carolina Photo by Peyton Williams/UNC/Getty Images

2019-20 Outlook:

Much like Syracuse’s incoming recruiting class, this isn’t a team that will wow anyone on paper. The Orange won’t be ranked coming into the season and figure to be a middle of the pack ACC squad, or slightly better. Boeheim will rely heavily on the junior class as Hughes steps into a leadership position for the first time while Dolezaj and Sidibe will assume larger roles.

Still, it’s possible that this a team that can gel well together without relying on one or two guys to do all the heavy lifting on offense. There are more shooters in the fold now as the aforementioned Hughes returns along with Buddy. JG3 is lights out from the permitter while Goodine is a better deep threat than advertised. Guerrier and Dolezaj are capable from distance as well.

Carey is key given that he’s one of the more capable guys off the bounce. The preseason trip to Italy showed that Syracuse could get movement on offense — perhaps we see some motion sets from this team — but expect some PnR for Carey up top with shooters to space on the perimeter. The new 3-point line is moving from 20-feet and 9-inches to 22-feet and 1 3/4-inches in the college game this season. That should open up more driving lines on offense, too.

How good the defense can be is anyone’s guess with less length and experience. Boeheim has hinted at the possibility of playing man-to-man and oh my goodness Syracuse is going to ride the bubble all the way up until Selection Sunday again.

Big Non-Con Games:

NIT Season Tip-Off vs. Oklahoma State (Nov. 27th), Ole Miss/Penn State (Nov. 29th), Iowa (Dec. 3rd), at Georgetown (Dec. 14th)

Big ACC Games:

Home: Virginia (Nov. 6th), Duke, North Carolina, NC State

Away: Virginia, Louisville, Florida State

COLLEGE BASKETBALL: FEB 23 Duke at Syracuse Photo by Gregory Fisher/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

Areas of Interest:

  • Syracuse will open the season against Virginia (thanks, ACCN), the defending national champs
  • The ACC is going to 20 league game games beginning this season. What sort of impact does that have on SU and the conference as a whole?
  • How will the deeper 3-point line impact the 2-3 zone, if at all?
  • Coaches can now call live-ball timeouts in the final two minutes of either half and overtime periods
  • As mentioned, Boeheim has hinted at the possibility of playing man. Will that be employed and if so, how far into the season will it go?
  • The coaching staff has said this a deep team. Boeheim has rarely gone past seven or eight deep, but is willing to on occasion (2011-12). Is this one of those years or does he trim the rotation by conference play?

For Syracuse basketball stories and updates, follow Nunes and James on twitter @NunesMagician and @JamesSzuba