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Syracuse basketball needs more than improved recruiting numbers

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Sanctions are over but there’s more work to be done.

NCAA Basketball: ACC Tournament-Syracuse vs North Carolina Jeremy Brevard-USA TODAY Sports

When the Syracuse Orange added two new basketball recruits a week ago it sparked that always calm and civil discussion we have around Jim Boeheim and recruiting. On one side you have the group which believes that NCAA sanctions were the reason for a drop in Orange recruiting while on the other side you have a group that feels like a streak of seasons with double-digit losses means there might be more issues at play.

The reality is that it’s going to take a bit more than recruiting numbers and rankings to see Syracuse back as a consistent top 25 program.

Do you realize that the last time Syracuse was ranked in the final AP poll was in 2014. Yes we’ve seen a Final Four run since then but the Orange haven’t been ranked at the end of the regular season since Tyler Ennis and Jerami Grant were playing. That’s a long time for an elite program and a big reason for the impatience among the fan base.

Syracuse v Dayton Photo by Elsa/Getty Images

Like every program Syracuse has been faced with early departures and transfers. Other than BJ Johnson, the Orange have avoided having players excel after they leave for another school (we’ll see where this year’s transfers fall). Early NBA departures have been another story as the roster turnover has chipped away at the depth and forced players into more playing time earlier in their development.

During this period Syracuse has been able to land some highly rated recruits but are the Orange recruiting the right players for the style Jim Boeheim wants to play? When you think about Syracuse what comes to mind? How many of you said the 2-3 zone? If this is the blueprint for success at Syracuse how do you feel about next year’s roster on that end of the floor?

Since Ennis left in 2014 the Orange have failed to land a successful PG recruit and while we wait a couple of years for Dior Johnson to change that, it’s clear that the combo guard era hasn’t delivered what Boeheim has hoped for from the position. The last two years have seen Tyus Battle and then Elijah Hughes serve as the go-to option and primary play-maker. Will the play-making role fall to Marek Dolezaj next season?

Next year, the Orange are going to send out a backcourt that would rank towards the bottom of the ACC in terms of athleticism. Syracuse was excellent offensively in transition last season but they couldn’t rebound well enough or create enough turnovers to be able to run more often. For all the shooting acumen Joseph Girard III and Buddy Boeheim bring, can they become better defenders at the top of the zone? The duo really got exposed last year in the full-court press so when Syracuse tried to use that defense to get back in games it was ineffective. Does Jim Boeheim trust Kadary Richmond with minutes in press situations or will he stick with his best shooters despite their inability to generate turnovers?

NCAA Basketball: ACC Tournament-Syracuse vs North Carolina Jeremy Brevard-USA TODAY Sports

When it comes to manning the middle of the zone, we have watched the Orange go from the bulk of Dajuan Coleman to the rim protecting ability of Pascal Chukwu to an inconsistent and under-sized Bourama Sidibe. While Sidibe was effective offensively It was clear that Boeheim wasn’t happy with the interior defense last season. It’s also clear he didn’t trust any of his three centers as we watched the Orange pursue big men transfers all spring before turning back to high school players when they landed Frank Anselem’s commitment. With Anselem projecting as more of a power forward it appears to leave Sidibe firmly in control of the starting center spot. A short summer of supervised strength training means the Orange are going to need to collectively get better on the defensive glass next year.

While we as fans enjoy the excitement that comes with landing five-star recruits, we need to recognize that Syracuse has landed commitments from a number of highly rated players recently some of whom didn’t deliver what their recruit rankings suggested. While I think talent can certainly overcome some questions of fit to the preferred style of play, it’s also fair to question if some of the Orange’s problems aren’t self-inflicted. Too often in recent years it seems that Syracuse is trying to shove pieces together that leave it with a bad fit on one side of the court. Can next year’s squad change that or will we be stuck in another year of Selection Sunday limbo?