A two-for-one special? What a way to start off basketball season for the Syracuse Orange.
Both the men’s and women’s basketball teams will make their season debuts at home today in the JMA Wireless Dome.
The women’s team will be up first, taking on the Stony Brook Seawolves in what will be new Head Coach Felisha Legette-Jack’s first game that counts. Stony Brook is coming off a 23-6 campaign in 2021-2022, including a 14-4 record in the American East Conference. After a 1-and-done in the Women’s NIT, the Seawolves jumped ship to the Colonial Athletic Conference.
As for the men’s team, the Orange make their season debut against the Lehigh Mountain Hawks, who went 13-19 overall and 10-8 in the Patriot League Conference. Jim Boeheim returns for his 47th year at the helm, this time with one of the youngest teams he’s ever coached. At least two true freshmen are expected to start the season opener.
WBB What to Watch For
Dom: Can the Orange control the paint?
In the team’s only exhibition game against Le Moyne, Syracuse shot extremely poorly and struggled to finish around the rim while giving up easy kick-out opportunities. The Orange made up for it with a +22 offensive rebound margin and +9 in second-chance points. Against a Division I opponent as tough as Stony Brook, ‘Cuse can’t necessarily bank on controlling the possession game. It’ll be interesting to see how coach Legette-Jack adjusts heading into the Orange’s season opener.
Mike: Defend the Dome Court
The best way to get a fanbase invested in you again is to win on your home court. That’s something SU couldn’t do down the stretch last year, winning only one Dome contest after New Year’s. Not just that, but most of those losses were pretty ugly ones. We can’t expect this group to turn into a juggernaut overnight but playing competitive and keeping games close are a must. A win here would set that tone early.
Kevin: Just win Orange
Stony Brook was 23-6 last season and while they lost a lot of players, they have a total of six transfers joining them. This doesn’t look like an easy start to the season, so it’s important for the Orange to find a way to win. It doesn’t have to be pretty, but Syracuse needs to get some early W’s to get the team to believe in Felisha Legette-Jack’s message.
Christian: Lead by example
For the second season in a row, the women’s basketball program sees significant roster turnover. That trend most likely stops after this season with Felisha Legette-Jack on board for the foreseeable future. However, with such a new roster, that means the holdovers from last season such as Teisha Hyman and Alaina Rice need to show early why they stayed with the program. Likewise, a lot of eyes will be on Dyaisha Fair to show why she followed Legette-Jack from Buffalo to Syracuse. Those three need to set an example for the rest of the team to follow quickly.
Szuba: Whatever Dyaisha Fair is doing
Look, there’s more to this Syracuse women’s basketball team than one player. But if there’s one player you want to watch, it’s Dyaisha Fair. Let her get up and down the floor and do her thing. If you don’t like watching players throw no look dimes on a rope then you don’t like basketball.
MBB What to Watch For
Dom: Can Syracuse’s youngsters space the floor properly?
I echoed this point after the Orange’s second exhibition game, but the newcomers shot just 6/22 from three. With both Joe Girard III and Jesse Edwards taking on greater scoring responsibility compared to last year, both will need all the space possible to maximize their production. Particularly, keep an eye out for how coach Boeheim structures his rotation at the forward slots.
Mike: What’s the plan of attack?
In the two preseason games, we saw the Orange run a half-court offense with mixed results. It set up plenty of fast-break opportunities but just as easily left guys out of position on the back end, leading to effective counterattacks. Keep an eye on how well JGIII at the 2 and Judah Mintz at the 1 plays out. As the two essentially swap roles from their last seasons, both need to be aware of how to contribute to ball movement and not waste any open looks they get.
Kevin: Protect the ball
Lehigh shouldn’t provide much of a challenge for Syracuse unless the Orange are careless with the ball. In the two exhibition games, Syracuse was a little loose with the ball racking up 30 turnovers total. Giving away possessions is a way to allow an underdog to stick around. If Syracuse can limit mistakes their talent should make this an easy opener.
Christian: Want the ball
If you’re name isn’t Joe Girard or Judah Mintz, you need to show that you want the ball on offense. While Girard and Mintz are guards in name, both are very focused on scoring and doing it all themselves offensively. The other three players on the floor need to do something to make themselves available. The offense goes cold when Girard and Mintz try to isolate by themselves too much, which has led to the turnover and run problems we saw in the exhibition games. Off-ball movement is critical so that the two SU guards realize they have options.
Szuba: What’s the offense look like?
Curious to see how Syracuse will approach its offense this year without Cole Swider, Jimmy and Buddy Boeheim. Do the Orange look to get out and run at all early, or prefer to set up in the half-court (which struggled at various points in two exhibitions)? The defense will be better than last season — that seems like a given. But I’m curious to see how Syracuse runs its stuff in the half-court and who can score within that offense, particularly from the forward positions.
The women’s team kicks off their season at 3:30 in the Dome, followed by the men’s opening game at 8 pm.
After both programs suffered losing seasons in 2022, let’s hope 2023 provides each with an opportunity to bounce back.