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Syracuse men’s basketball roundtable: Things to watch for in 2021-22

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What are some of the things we’re watching for this season?

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

With the Syracuse Orange men’s basketball season upon us we asked some of the TNIAAM staff to chime in on a few questions as we get ready for tip-off.

1) Which player are you most excited to see play this season and why?

Kevin: Jesse Edwards was a difference maker for the Syracuse defense in March. With three new forwards coming into the 2-3 zone his presence in the middle and his rebounding is going to be crucial. If he can take another step forward this year the Orange could avoid those Selection Sunday sweats.

John: It’s Jesse Edwards, because we haven’t had a dynamic two-way center in a bit, and what we’ve seen from Edwards thus far indicates he could very well be that. Having five scoring threats once again should open things up outside and really make this a fun team to watch on offense. If Jesse comes along a bit more on defense, it could also help remove some of the current concerns there.

Szuba: Well, it’s Jesse Edwards but since we’ve already talked at length about him, I’ll go with Benny Williams. Syracuse has its highest ranked recruit since Tyus Battle and I’m curious to see how quickly he can adjust to the level of play and the Syracuse system. He seems like a forward that will thrive with the freedom on offense and be able to get on the offensive glass, but how soon he adjusts to the 2-3 zone could determine how much he plays (and he will play at least 20 minutes per game). He has the potential to be the best wing defender on the team.

2) Who is your choice for breakout player?

Kevin: Cole Swider. He’s a talented shooter who will likely benefit from the change in offensive philosophy and the increased minutes he’ll see. Swider’s going to get a lot of bigger players guarding him away from the rim so I expect him to finish the season as Syracuse’s 2nd-leading scorer at around 17 points per game.

John: Edwards, to be honest. I definitely believe he can make a sizeable leap. That doesn’t mean he’ll be all-conference or anything like that. But even if he can “break out” with 8-10 points per game while flirting with a double-double could be a revelation for this team.

Szuba: Paddy Casey. Uhm, no let’s go with Edwards. The 6-foot-11 big man looks ready to man the center position. He’s Syracuse’s best option in the middle and he’s already making plays he wouldn’t have made last year. He’s still working on getting better with his defensive timing, but he’s more confident this year and if Syracuse can dump the ball into him in the post a few times per half, look out.

3) What do you think is the biggest strength of this year’s team?

Kevin: Balance on offense. Syracuse has potentially five players who could lead the team in scoring on any day or night. A lot of attention will be on Buddy Boeheim but the Orange have other guys who can make teams pay for leaving them open.

John: An ability to use outside shooting to really just steamroll teams at various points. We’ve seen Buddy Boeheim and Joe Girard get hot in the past, and that momentum is powerful. Having four players on the floor able to bury teams from three and feed off each other’s hot shooting is a fun element we haven’t seen in awhile with this roster.

Szuba: Snipers at every wing position. This team is going to break a few records this year with its outside shooting. It will also probably shoot itself out of a few games, but such is life relying on the three.

4) What do you think is the biggest weakness of this year’s team?

Kevin: Since James mentioned rebounding I’ll take ball-handling and I’m not just pointing at Joe Girard here. Last year Syracuse was able to put the ball in the hands of Marek Dolezaj and let him break down the defense from the high post. Will Jimmy Boeheim assume that role? Can the forwards help the guards against pressure? If not teams might borrow Houston’s approach of pressuring the perimeter and forcing the Orange out of their offense.

John: Early on, it’s defense. As we’ve seen in the past, the zone’s not an easy thing to learn in one offseason and with so much change among the Orange’s main contributors, the 2-3 could be a glaring problem in November. Whether they make adjustments over the course of the year will dictate whether this is a tournament team or not.

Szuba: Rebounding. We’re going to be talking about this in the early season. I can already feel it.

5) What song should be used during the Syracuse starting line-up introductions in the Dome?

Kevin: No Friends in the Industry (Instrumental)- You get a Drake track for #CanadaSCollegeTeam with an up-tempo beat that the students will recognize as you get the energy up for tip-off

John: People love throwbacks, so why not just bring back Fort Minor’s “Remember the Name” from years’ past? If that’s not entertaining enough for the kids, how about playing a portion of The Offspring’s “Pretty Fly (For a White Guy)” on every Joe Girard three?

Szuba: Damn it, Kevin. Let’s have Boeheim ditch the Springsteen and come out to Drake and Future’s Way 2 Sexy. It’s campy and ridiculous and seeing Boeheim come out to that would be funnier than his interactions with John Bol. As for the question that was asked, idk, go with something motivational like Nelly’s Heart of a Champion or something stupid like Jim Jones’ We Fly High. Or, just some intense music with player intros like the video below would be cool.

6) Will Jim Boeheim retire at the end of the season?

Kevin: Yes but not when you think. He’s not going to take the spotlight away from Jimmy and Buddy’s final game in the Dome but despite what he’s been saying I think sometime in June he steps away so he can follow their professional careers and join the media as a studio analyst for March Madness. I mean Jim on the same panel as Barkley, Seth Davis and Gottlieb is ratings gold Jerry.

John: We’d have to win a title for it to happen. And even then, do think Boeheim will derive some satisfaction from outlasting Coach K. So wouldn’t bet on seeing Jim call it a career this year, no.

Szuba: I’ve maintained this: maybe it’s naive to think he’ll come back because he’d never admit to retiring in a media session or announce before a season. But barring an unforeseeable run to the National Championship, I truly believe he’ll be back. I guess there’s a chance he gets to the end of the season, realizes he’ll be coming back in the fall to coach a team without his sons and just decide it’s time. But that doesn’t sound like Boeheim to me. He’ll be back.

Now it’s your turn. Take on one or all of the questions above or add your own to solicit feedback. Let’s hear what you’ve got.