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Why Syracuse men’s basketball is and isn’t a ‘darkhorse’ Final Four candidate

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Does this disloyal idiot agree with another

NCAA Basketball: NCAA Tournament-Syracuse at West Virginia Trevor Ruszkowski-USA TODAY Sports

Tuesday was a big news day for Syracuse Orange men’s basketball hype. Former “disloyal idiot” Andy Katz selected SU as one his dark horse candidates for the 2022 Final Four.

Katz notes that the Boeheim Triad could be the driving force for the Orange in the upcoming season.

Syracuse never won more than three games in a row all season, when it finished with an 18-10 record overall, but it won back-to-back games at the most important time of the season. There will be three Boeheims in the program next season as Cornell transfer Jimmy Boeheim (16.7 points per game in the 2019-20 season) joins his brother Buddy (17.8 points per game in 2021) in playing for their father Jim.

So is this “disloyal idiot” correct? Well let’s look at some reasons for and against this notion that Syracuse is a Final Four team.

Pros:

Shooting

It’s pretty well-documented that group has a lot of players who are not only capable of hitting from deep but unafraid to let the shots fly. They will extend the opposing defenses well away from the rim which could open up opportunities near the rim. This team is going to break the school record for 3s in a game and they might do it multiple times.

If you’re asking me the number one reason why this team could do damage in March I’d tell you it’s because they will likely play like a mid-major. If you’re asking Jim Boeheim well he’s doing his usual job of tempering expectations among the fanbase

Experience

In a sport that has been taken over by early-entry talent, Syracuse returns an experienced group. Even though they are mixing in transfers (more on that later) this is a roster that has played in big games and in tough environments.

Unfamiliarity

Yes the 2-3 zone can cause problems against teams who haven’t seen it often. There’s also going to be the way Syracuse will attack on offense. Jim Boeheim doesn’t run a lot of plays but the Orange aren’t going to be running a lot of motion-heavy sets. They are going to find a weak link and look to exploit the match-up. If healthy this group’s offensive ability could cause problems to undisciplined squads.

Cons:

Roster Turnover

The 2-3 zone works best when the parts are experienced. Right now Syracuse is looking at four new players in their rotation so will they be able to develop the cohesion needed to make the defense effective?

Rebounding

Did you know that Syracuse’s top returning rebounder is Joe Girard at 2.9 per game? Yes Jesse Edwards and Bourama Sidibe will provide more size in the middle but Jimmy Boeheim and Cole Swider are not known for their work on the glass. Opponents hurt the Orange last season by getting on the offensive glass and this team is going to have to commit all five players to rebound

Backcourt Depth

Syracuse has three scholarship guards on the roster. What happens if there’s foul trouble or injury? Can this team handle a smaller, quicker team who presses them from the opening tip? Guards seem to be the difference makers in March and the Orange saw both sides in 2021 as they handled San Diego State but couldn’t escape Houston’s swarming defense.

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Ultimately the deciding factor in making a deep NCAA Tournament run is getting the right match-ups, playing well and having a bit of luck. With the 2021-22 schedule that Syracuse will face, the focus right now has to be on getting into the Big Dance.

What do you think? Does this roster have the makings of a team capable of playing basketball into April?