The Syracuse Orange men’s basketball season is drawing closer, which heralds the start of the Adrian Autry era. With a revamped roster full of transfers and intriguing returning talent, there’s a lot of unknowns surrounding how the Orange will look come opening tip. College basketball reporter Jon Rothstein was in Central New York on Thursday to watch Syracuse practice, and he shared some interesting observations about the new-look Orange squad.
Yes, it’s man-to-man
Syracuse will not look like the Syracuse that we've seen during the past few seasons. The Orange are determined to play stifling, man-to-man defense under Adrian Autry.— Jon Rothstein (@JonRothstein) September 28, 2023
Most athletic team this program has had in 4-5 years.
Perhaps the first question that came to everyone’s mind when Autry took over was whether Syracuse would still play the 2-3 zone defense that Jim Boeheim implemented. The apparent answer is no, and as Rothstein points out, the team seems to have the athleticism to play man-to-man. Much like Boeheim, Autry is seemingly placing a heavy coaching emphasis on defense first. But instead of the famous zone, the Orange are switching to the most conventional defense known to basketball.
The starting five is probably what you expected
Early prediction on Syracuse's 2023-24 starting five:— Jon Rothstein (@JonRothstein) September 28, 2023
JJ Starling, Judah Mintz, Chris Bell, Benny Williams, Naheem McLeod
There shouldn’t be much of a surprise here. Mintz, Bell and Williams were all starters on last year’s squad. Starling started at Notre Dame last season and McLeod started 11 for Florida State last year. Maybe someone else could’ve slotted in for Starling or Mintz to improve shooting from the guard positions, but these five seem like the most well-rounded to start the game for Syracuse.
Judah Mintz is shooting
Judah Mintz is showcasing a much improved outside shot. Taking and making shots with confidence.— Jon Rothstein (@JonRothstein) September 28, 2023
Was 30% from 3 as a freshman --- 35% seems within reach as a sophomore.
One of the biggest knocks on Mintz’s game was his jump shot. While he showed great playmaking ability with his dribble-drive ability, his outside shot left a lot to be desired. He improved later in the season, but the 30% clip that Rothstein mentioned was also largely due to a lack of shots taken from behind the arc. Mintz didn’t make a lot of his attempts but it sounds like he’ll be willing to let it rip from deep more often. If Mintz shows improvement in his jump shot, not only will the Orange offense stock rise, but Mintz’s draft stock will rise as well.
Maliq Brown is the next Marek Dolezaj
One thing to keep an eye on Syracuse looks to transition things under Adrian Autry: Maliq Brown in spurts as a small ball 5 man.— Jon Rothstein (@JonRothstein) September 28, 2023
This is ONLY September.
If you get a “this is ONLY” statement from Rothstein, it usually means you want to pay attention.
We saw Brown in spurts as a small five in the middle of the 2-3 zone. His tenacity on both sides of the ball made up for his smaller framer. It looks like we’ll see that again, which should be good news for Syracuse fans. Brown showcased a lot of natural basketball IQ, especially in regards to his positioning. His game reminds me of Dolezaj’s without the passing. Brown’s inclusion at the five will only further the position-less basketball that has started to define a lot of modern basketball.
Chance Westry should be ready soon
Syracuse's Chance Westry (meniscus) has been fully cleared for all basketball related activities, but is being "brought along slowly", per Adrian Autry. Transfer from Auburn. Former top-50 recruit.— Jon Rothstein (@JonRothstein) September 28, 2023
Westry was a sought-after recruit by Syracuse during his initial recruitment. Much like many of Syracuse’s transfers, his relationship with Autry brought him to Central New York. Westry could’ve been in consideration for the starting five given his shooting ability, but his meniscus injury means the Orange are being careful with his return to full-time basketball. Once at full strength, Westry should be an important member in Syracuse’s rotation.
Did that wet your basketball appetite yet? This is one of the most anticipated Syracuse basketball seasons in recent history due to the new man leading the charge. Now we know a little bit more information on how Syracuse will begin the post-Jim Boeheim era.