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Syracuse men’s basketball projected 29th in first KenPom rankings of 2020-21

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NCAA Basketball: N.C. State at Syracuse Rich Barnes-USA TODAY Sports

We still don’t have a handle on exactly when the Syracuse Orange men’s basketball season will begin. Yet, there’s news trickling in. Specifically, this time, it’s from Ken Pomeroy, who dropped his initial rankings for 2020-21 right in the middle of election night.

Personally, I didn’t expect to see Syracuse listed, and yet, there they are at 29th. Notably, SU is sixth out of seven ACC teams in the top 30 — slightly ahead of Virginia Tech.

Pomeroy has Syracuse ranked 27th in terms of offensive efficiency, and 35th on defense (yet 248th in terms of tempo). The Orange actually wrapped up last season ranked 51st, with a top-25 offense, but a defense ranked 116th in terms of efficiency.

In part, KenPom’s optimistic outlook comes from the returning talent on this team. Beyond Elijah Hughes (admittedly a big talent on both the offensive and defensive sides), SU basically returns everyone from a team that was 18-14, but with a dominant win over UNC in the ACC Tournament. The offense will bank on Illinois transfer Alan Griffin making up most of the lost production from Hughes, plus potential increased production from returning players like Buddy Boeheim, Joe Girard, Marek Dolezaj and Quincy Guerrier (plus incoming freshmen).

Defensively, the bigger question comes in. Hughes was the team’s top defender last year, and those aren’t easy shoes to fill. Buddy and Girard struggled on the defensive end at times in 2019-20, but could improve to some extent this season. Is that enough to be a top-40 defense, though? I’m personally skeptical of that.

Full ACC rankings below.

3. Duke Blue Devils

14. Louisville Cardinals

16. Virginia Cavaliers

19. Florida State Seminoles

23. North Carolina Tar Heels

29. Syracuse Orange

30. Virginia Tech Hokies

40. Clemson Tigers

41. Miami Hurricanes

55. N.C. State Wolfpack

73. Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets

83. Pittsburgh Panthers

100. Notre Dame Fighting Irish

106. Boston College Eagles

130. Wake Forest Demon Deacons

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But what do you think? Is KenPom more optimistic than most Orange fans? Share your own thoughts below.