The Syracuse Orange women’s basketball season starts on Wednesday with a matchup against Monmouth. But in advance of game one, we wanted to preview the season and dive into some of the biggest questions facing this year’s team.
As you might have guessed based on how this offseason has gone, there are quite a few questions for this squad. So we try to narrow things down to the most important ones.
What will be the key differences for this program under Vonn Read?
Hopefully, behind the scenes, Read is leading a culture of change and healing from the previous regime despite the fact that he was on staff while Quentin Hillsman was in charge. But on the court, it wouldn’t be the worst thing to see a more balanced offense. That’s potentially feasible without a true star on this team — while last year’s squad was heavily dependent on a handful of players. Using depth to continue to play with tempo would be a plus since it seemed to be an advantage for SU in previous seasons.
Which player(s) step up to fill the scoring and leadership void?
Priscilla Williams is the top returning scorer, with 8.7 points per game, and will now be looked to as a player that helps bridge the gap between what was and what is for Syracuse. From a leadership standpoint, she has the most familiarity with Read and SU, so it’s a natural role to step into if she wants to.
From a scoring standpoint, I’ll submit a surprise pick, with freshman Julianna Walker. The Washington state product was a dynamic shooter in high school and with a blank slate roster-wise, the newcomer could wind up getting a lot more opportunities to play than normal. if this team’s going to play beyond its expectations, Walker could wind up being a big part of that.
What are the biggest strengths for this squad?
Ball-handling could be a strength with a lot of guards, and depth could wind up being a highlight despite the roster turnover in the offseason. As mentioned, having so little continuity from last year’s roster to this year’s could mean a lot more opportunities for players up and down the roster. It could also let this team thrive on tempo... if they’re able to implement a system quickly enough, of course.
And the major weaknesses?
Time, most importantly, since that breeds familiarity and there’s certainly a lack of that on this roster right now. While it’s no knock on the players — whose dedication to this program is something I respect given the rough shape it’s in — talent will certainly be an issue while up against ACC competition this year. This roster has quality players. But their ability to mesh will be a challenge, and the Orange seem likely to struggle against the conference’s top teams. The squad’s lack of size will be a major issue and the biggest shortcoming on a game-to-game basis.
What’s a reasonable expectation for the Orange this year?
This team making the NCAA Tournament would be a minor miracle, unfortunately. But if they can cobble together 10 wins, I’d say that’s an accomplishment. Given how much the program is in flux, what we don’t know about the coaching staff or search, and how little time this team has had to gel, it would be a stretch to expect much more. The hope no matter what happens is that this season is step one toward a fresh start for Syracuse.