The real question is if the roster is good enough to bounce back after a dismal 2021-2022 campaign.
There are some certainties with the Orange. New head coach Felisha Legette-Jack will instill a new culture in the locker room. And on paper, Legette-Jack has proven to be a successful coach in previous tenures. Legette-Jack’s emphasis on intensity and defense will shore up what was the worst defense in the ACC last season.
After getting blown out by Clemson in the Orange’s season finale, the team transformed itself by adding promising transfer players and bringing in a new recruitment class that flashes tons of potential. It’s been a terrific offseason reset for the Orange.
Can the women’s team's success off the court translate to wins on the court? To be successful, SU’s WBB will need to rely on its best talent to lead them to decisive victories this upcoming season. That depends almost entirely on how SU’s new Big Three can fit together: Teisha Hyman, Dyaisha Fair, and Georgia Woolley.
Let’s start by breaking down each of the Orange’s most notable players heading into this season. That starts with returning starter Teisha Hyman.
The junior guard was one of the lone bright spots in an otherwise disappointing 2021-2022 campaign.
The biggest improvement from Hyman was her ability to generate offense for the Orange. From her freshman season to her sophomore year, Hyman improved her scoring output from 6.5 PPG to 16.2 while improving her efficiency by over 8%. Additionally, her growth as a playmaker (1.0 APG in 2021; 3.9 APG in 2022) and free throw percentage (68% in 2021; 82% in 2022) proved Hyman can be an impact player with the ball in her hands.
In the Orange’s final three games of this past season, Hyman averaged 24.3 PPG, 6.7 RPG, 3.7 APG, and 4.3 SPG while shooting 45% from the field. Small sample size? Potentially, but Syracuse did play in even-matched competition against Wake Forest, Boston College, and Clemson during Hyman’s late-season surge.
Heading into her junior season, the biggest x-factor for Hyman is cutting down on her turnovers. Hyman averaged over three turnovers per game in 2021-2022, accumulating 15 total turnovers in the Orange’s last three games. In basketball, more ball-handling responsibility typically leads to a higher usage rate and, therefore, a higher turnover percentage.
On defense, Hyman is a pesky perimeter defender who can get into opponent passing lanes and cause chaos at the top of the key. At 5’9 and with her defensive activity, Hyman’s defense will be critical to addressing the Orange’s horrendous team defense from last season.
With another year under her belt, Hyman will slot into a very similar role as Syracuse’s go-to scoring hub on offense.
With Fair on the team, the Orange won’t be lacking in the scoring department for this upcoming season.
Dyaisha Fair decided to team up with her old coach from Buffalo and play out what will be her senior season with Syracuse. On paper, this is an excellent edition for Syracuse’s reset.
Like Hyman, Fair is a nuclear scorer from just about everywhere on the court. Last season, she averaged 23.4 PPG, 4.9 RPG, and 4.4 APG. The biggest plus for the Orange: Fair shot above 40% from the field, nearly 37% from three, and close to 82% from the foul line.
Fair brings consistency, two-way effort, and most importantly, a veteran leader for the Orange. In her three seasons with Buffalo, Fair averaged north of 23 PPG, 5 RPG, and 4 APG.
Similar to Hyman, Fair is a tenacious defender who can thrive as a pesky perimeter stopper who can generate turnovers from opponents. Together, Hyman’s and Fair’s defensive potential is definitely something to watch for this season.
The biggest concern for Fair is if she can maintain her scoring efficiency. Fair had a similar role, playing time, and opportunity during her three seasons in Buffalo. Last season, her production was valuable because of her scoring output and her efficiency. But during her first two seasons with Buffalo, Fair shot in the mid-thirties from the field and 31.5% from three after shooting north of 40% from the field and nearly 37% last season.
Will her shooting regress back to the mean? Or, is Fair’s improvement a sign of what’s to come? That won’t be answered until she steps foot on the court. For now, Fair looks to be a great addition for the Orange.
In basketball, too much depth is a good problem to have. This season, the Orange will have tons of talent at the guard position.
In a similar situation to Fair, Georgia Woolley played her freshman year in Buffalo before transferring to Syracuse.
In her lone season for the Bulls, Woolley averaged nearly 15 points on solid efficiency (41.8% from the field). Once again, the Orange doubled down on scoring guards who can survive on defense, force turnovers, and push in transition.
Out of the three aforementioned players, Woolley is the player with the most uncertainty. Compared to the careers of Hyman and Fair, Woolley has the smallest sample size and minutes played. Like with many of the new players for SU, Woolley is another wait-and-see candidate who can carve herself a sizeable role in the Orange’s rotation.
How will Syracuse’s new three-guard lineup mesh together?
By retaining one key guard and adding another two, head coach Felisha Legette-Jack will need to use the early part of the season to figure out her rotation for the team.
The offense will not be a cause of concern for the Orange this season. All of Hyman, Fair, and Woolley are high-usage, offensive creators who can get teammates shot opportunities while also keeping defenses honest with their own scoring capabilities.
In 2021-2022, the Orange ranked 6th in points scored per game in the ACC. There’s a case to be made that Syarcuse’s guards are more talented than last year’s iteration. Additionally, both Hyman and Fair already have multiple seasons of experience under their belts.
Yet, there is concern over how the Orange’s guard rotation will work itself out. Hyman, Fair, and Woolley have all averaged over 30 minutes per game for their careers. Assuming Hyman and Fair start on opening night, Woolley will need to slide into a bench role. If Woolley happens to play better than Hyman or Fair, will one of those two players be willing to sacrifice their role for the sake of the team?
Coach Legette-Jack could experiment with a three-guard lineup. It’s intriguing, to say the least, and there are certain pros and cons to making such a decision.
On the one hand, the Hyman-Fair-Woolley trio will give Syracuse plenty of offense. The Orange will be able to put up points. Additionally, the Orange added more size, length, and defense over the summer to make up for the team’s lack of defensive effort and issues with rebounding.
However, it can’t be overstated how bad the Orange were on defense last season. In 2021-2022, the Orange allowed opponents to score over 22 points more than the best-ranked defense in the ACC (Georgia Tech) and nearly 10 points more than the third-worst defensive team (Virginia). The Orange might need to sacrifice upside on offense to generate a better floor on defense.
On paper, the Orange will field one of the best three-guard rotations in women’s basketball. Nevertheless, basketball games aren’t played on paper.
Coach Legette-Jack will have plenty of decisions to make regarding the team’s rotation. How the Orange’s new guard tandem fits together might be the biggest choice to make.