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Syracuse women’s basketball: what to watch for vs. Lafayette

The Orange are back in business.

Syndication: Democrat and Chronicle Jamie Germano/Rochester Democrat and Chronicle / USA TODAY NETWORK

The Syracuse Orange women’s basketball team officially kicks off its 2023-2024 campaign Tuesday night against the Lafayette Leopards in the JMA Wireless Dome.

The Orange are looking to get off on a strong start in coach Felisha Legette-Jack’s second year with the program. The Orange finished with a 20-13 (9-9) record last year in her first season as head coach and is coming off a comfortable 77-53 home exhibition win versus the College of Saint Rose Golden Knights last week.

Lafayette finished 10-19 last season, including a 7-11 record in the Patriot League.

Tip-off is at 7 p.m. in the Dome. The Orange’s season opener will also be available for stream on ESPN’s ACC Network+.

Can Syracuse begin the season on a winning note? Here’s what to watch for between Syracuse and Lafayette:

Watch out for the rookies

Superstar Dyaisha Fair will obviously be leading the way for most of this season, but Legette-Jack is putting a lot of stock into some of the new additions from this past offseason.

That starts with two of Syracuse’s three incoming freshman in Sophie Burrows and Alyssa Latham, who fill some critical needs left behind by some of the players who graduated or transferred from last season’s team.

Syndication: Democrat and Chronicle Jamie Germano/Rochester Democrat and Chronicle / USA TODAY NETWORK

Burrows (20 points on 6/8 shooting from three) came off the bench and filled the microwave scoring role Syracuse never really quite had last year. Her defense will need some work, but she’ll likely be the first or second player off the bench in Legette-Jack’s rotation.

Latham (13 points on 5/6 shooting) also remains one of the Orange’s biggest x-factor players this season. The exhibition game showed Latham’s ability to be a do-it-all forward who can provide a secondary scoring option.

Keep an eye on how the duo performs in the season opener.

Who plays at backup guard?

One of the more-pressing questions needing an answer will certainly be addressed against Lafayette. Syracuse will be out two of its top guards on Tuesday: returning starter Georgia Woolley and Akron transfer Dominique Camp.

Legette-Jack on Monday said Woolley would “not be ready this week.” Camp started in the exhibition game and played for 17 minutes, but tweaked her ankle mid-way through and will also likely be out a week.

NCAA Womens Basketball: Notre Dame at Syracuse Rich Barnes-USA TODAY Sports

Fair will get her normal share of minutes. I’d expect Burrows and returning starter Alaina Rice to see some added playing time. From there, here’s to hoping that Kennedi Perkins and Lexi McNabb can hold the fort on their ends as well.

Aim for dominance

One of the hallmarks behind Syracuse’s 20-win campaign last year was their dominance against non-conference opponents. Outside of a game here or there, Syracuse defeated its opponents by around 17-23 points — with the margin of victory especially higher when the Orange played at home. Syracuse will be the clear favorites in this game no matter what, but a comfortable win would prove last season’s non-conference success wasn’t a fluke.

Syracuse versus Lafayette preview by the numbers

All-time: Syracuse is 1-0 all-time versus Lafayette, with Tuesday’s game being the first between both programs since 2011.

Last matchup: The Orange comfortably defeated the Leopards 74-54 over a decade ago.

Win/loss implications: A win gives Legette-Jack and the Orange the easy 1-0 start that it should easily get, while a loss would be incredibly troubling this early in the year.

Prediction: Syracuse comfortably wins 70-48.