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Syracuse men’s basketball is approaching a fork in the road

2022-23 is going to be a pivotal season for the program

NCAA Basketball: Miami-Florida at Syracuse Mark Konezny-USA TODAY Sports

The Syracuse Orange men’s basketball team limps into Brooklyn on a four-game losing streak. If the Orange can’t defeat the Florida State Seminoles on Wednesday then the run of .500 or better records ends at 53. After going 24-8 in their first season in the ACC in 2013-14, Syracuse has had double-digit losses in every season. Now this is where you can give me your “What about the Sweet Sixteen run?” and sure that was exciting but success in the regular and post-season does not have to be an either or situation.

Coaches and fans have both pointed to the Class of 2022 as the turning point for Syracuse’s return to elite status. Up until November 10, 2020 the thought was Dior Johnson was going to help the Orange land a Duke or Kentucky class of NBA prospects. Syracuse was out of NCAA sanctions and the roster turnover meant the Orange had a full complement of scholarships to hand out.

NCAA Basketball: Miami-Florida at Syracuse Mark Konezny-USA TODAY Sports

Then Dior de-committed and because the Orange had focused on players he wanted to play with they lost ground on recruits like JJ Starling or Chance Westry. Kamari Lands was the next elite recruit that Syracuse was going to build around....until he also de-committed. Syracuse lost battles for other players but when the dust settled they had signed a class that Jim Boeheim labeled “his best ever”.

“It’s the best recruiting class we’ve ever had,” Boeheim said. “Period. We may not have a superstar — it doesn’t have Carmelo (Anthony) — but, top to bottom, the players and coaches did an unbelievable job. The five players we have are way underrated. Three of them didn’t get to play last summer or in high school (due to the coronavirus pandemic) so they didn’t get evaluated. But when you look at balance in a recruiting class, it’s hard to get one guy at every position, and we did that. I think it’s an underrated class. I think these guys are better.”

This group would join Joe Girard, Jesse Edwards and Benny Williams to give Syracuse the depth and athleticism they’ve lacked this year. However it seems like Boeheim and staff want more as they chase Judah Mintz with promises of having the ball in his hands.

Syracuse’s incoming class is currently ranked 6th best in the ACC by 247 and Rivals has them 5th in the ACC. Adding Mintz (who would be the only incoming player in ESPN’s Top 100) moves them up in both and means it’s a top 15 class nationally. Is it the dream class we pictured two years ago? Not really but there is positional depth and the potential that the group might stick around and develop together which has been an issue since that 2013-14 season.

How quickly can the group adjust to ACC basketball? Will Syracuse suffer any other unexpected losses of this year’s roster? These are questions that we will ask throughout the off-season but next year will be a major test for Jim Boeheim and his staff. The iron-clad succession plan likely signals an internal promotion when Jim decides to step aside but another season spent on the bubble won’t inspire a ton of confidence in the plan.

The book isn’t closed on 21-22 yet but Syracuse’s place among the sport’s elite might hinge on next year’s group looking like the Orange of old.