Syracuse Basketball: 1 Prediction for Each Orange Starter in 2014-15

The Syracuse basketball team is back to playing meaningful games, and the Orange are off to a 2-0 start. Jim Boeheim’s club easily dispatched Kennesaw State and then let Hampton hang around before pulling away late.

The competition will heat up this weekend as the 2K Classic moves to Madison Square Garden. Syracuse will face California on Thursday night and either Texas or Iowa on Friday. Both games will be a challenge for this young Syracuse team and we will have a much better idea of where this team is after the next few games.

But we still have yet to see how the team will perform against legitimate competition. The season is still in its natal stages after all. So there’s still plenty of time for predictions of things to come. With that in mind, let’s look at one prediction for each Orange starter for this season.

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Syracuse Basketball: Biggest Storylines to Watch for Orange in 2014-15

The exhibitions are over, and the Syracuse basketball team will start playing games that count in a matter of days. The Orange will tip off the 2014-15 season Friday night when Kennesaw State come to town.

This year’s version of the Orange look much different than last year. There are three new starters, and the rotation will be made up of players who only saw the floor in mop-up duty last season. The two returning starters, Trevor Cooney and Rakeem Christmas, will also take on much bigger roles in the new campaign.

With the season right around the corner, let’s take a look at the biggest storylines for fans to follow.

We ranked the entries based on their importance and how much of an effect they can have on the Orange’s season. 

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Syracuse Basketball: Complete Roster, Season Preview for 2014-15 Orange

While Syracuse might have lost some key players from last year’s team, head coach Jim Boeheim always finds a way to reload and be just as good the following year.

Tyler Ennis, C.J. Fair and Jerami Grant were key members of a squad that started the year 25-0 before fading down the stretch and ending in a third-round exit from the NCAA tournament. With these men gone, a new generation of stars will attempt to fill these shoes in the 2-3 zone.

With two impact freshmen joining a solid group of returning players, the Orange will try to again exceed expectations.

The question is whether Syracuse can continue to get it done in what has become an incredibly deep ACC.

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Syracuse stocks up: Hardly a rebuilding year for Orange

Head coach Jim Boeheim doesn’t see it as rebuilding, but rather bringing in new talent.



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Syracuse Basketball: Factors That Will Make or Break the Orange in 2014-15

Don’t look now, but the Syracuse basketball season is right around the corner. According to power forward Chris McCullough, the team will get back to work Friday.

There are several questions surrounding this year’s Orange team that will determine how far the team goes. If the freshmen adjust quickly, the team has the potential to make some noise in the ACC. Let’s take a look at a few of the factors that will make or break the Orange this season.


The Offense

This is where it will all start and end for the Orange. If they can muster more than, say, 65 points, they will give themselves a good chance to win. They averaged 68 a game last year, but in their losses they were putting up numbers like 59, 56 and 53.

The uncertainly this year, though, lies in whom the points will come from. Trevor Cooney returns as the only player who averaged double figures last year. After Cooney, Rakeem Christmas is the highest returning scorer at 5.8 points a game.

We still don’t know what to expect from Cooney after he fell off during the second half of last season. If his shot is falling, it will be a big boost to the offense. He also needs to mix in an off-the-dribble game, since opponents will be loading up on the perimeter to shut him down.

Players like Michael Gbinije, Tyler Roberson, Ron Patterson and B.J. Johnson will also need to play a bigger role this year. Except Gbinije, the rest of that crew didn’t see much of the floor last year, so we don’t know what they will provide.

And then there’s the freshmen. Both Kaleb Joseph and McCullough have a lot of upside, but you never know how fast new players will acclimate. They both project to be starters, so they will have a big role early on.

The defense is always going to be there for the Orange. Jim Boeheim has mastered teaching his system, and with an experienced anchor in Christmas, the 2-3 zone should be able to keep teams in check. It will just be a matter of the Orange offense beating the opponent’s defense.


The Schedule

Like last year, Syracuse has another tough slate of games ahead of them.

Before January, trips to Michigan and Villanova await as well as a home tilt with St. John’s. When the calendar turns, the ACC road will travel through North Carolina, Duke, Pittsburgh and Notre Dame. Syracuse will also host Duke, Pittsburgh, Louisville and Virginia.

The trip to Michigan, in particular, is dangerous for the Orange. Not only is the Crisler Center a tough venue, but the Wolverines are custom-built to beat Syracuse. Michigan likes to bomb it from deep, and it can hit it regularly.

As a team, Michigan was seventh in the country from three last year. Caris LeVert and Derrick Walton Jr. both hit better than 40 percent, and Spike Albrecht was at a respectable 38.7 percent. If the Wolverines make it rain in Ann Arbor, Syracuse will leave with a loss.

The schedule makers again didn’t do Syracuse any favors. If the Orange struggle to find their offensive footing, it could be a long and tough road to March.


The Pace

We already discussed how the Orange offense is a big question mark right now. One way they can get easier shots is to run off of turnovers.

Boeheim did tell Donna Ditota of that the Orange were “going to try to push it more.” Boeheim also said a lot of it depends on how fast Joseph matures. If he can lead the break without making too many mistakes, the Orange can have a potent transition game.

With Christmas and McCullough cleaning the glass, Cooney spotting up on the perimeter and Roberson and/or Gbinije filling the lanes on the wing, Joseph will have plenty of options to choose from. Joseph himself can also be dangerous on the break, as his quickness and athleticism can be too much for a defender to handle if he catches one backpedaling.

The Orange need all the help they can get on offense. If they can create some easy opportunities in transition, it will help immensely.

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Durant signs another deal, this time Orange Leaf (Yahoo Sports)

Thunder forward Kevin Durant said Thursday that he has signed a partnership deal with Orange Leaf Frozen Yogurt. Durant will own an undisclosed percentage of the company, his first such partnership since he joined the Roc Nation agency founded by Jay-Z last year. Orange Leaf, based in Oklahoma City, has 321 stores in 40 states, four in Australia and 69 under construction. Reese Travis, CEO of Orange Leaf, thought he was on the right track when he chose to pursue Durant as the company’s first brand ambassador.

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Durant signs another deal, this time Orange Leaf

Durant signs with Orange Leaf, cashes in on famous MVP speech during busy summer



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Syracuse Basketball: Ranking the 5 Greatest Shot-Blockers in Orange History

One of the key components to Syracuse’s 2-3 zone is the center. The middle man is the captain of the defense, calling out rotations and making sure the other players are in position and the defense works as a unit.

Perhaps the main job of an Orange center is to protect the rim. Syracuse teams, especially lately, have relied on their defense to shut the opponents’ offense down. It’s easier to do that when you have someone erasing shots inside.

Let’s take a look back at some of Syracuse’s best shot-blockers. We’ll count down the top five based on statistical output across a career as well as season-by-season accomplishments.


All stats courtesy of unless otherwise noted.

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Syracuse Basketball: The Truth About the 2014 Syracuse Orange

The No. 7 Syracuse Orange put a little air in its flat tire with a Sunday afternoon dismantling of the Florida State Seminoles, 74-58.

Syracuse (27-4, 14-4 ACC) used its superior athleticism to outrebound Florida State (18-12, 9-9) by a 43-24 margin and close out the regular season with a road win in an attempt to make losing four of its last five games a distant memory.

The Orange will enter the ACC tournament as a No. 2 seed, which means they will receive a double bye and play their next game on Friday, Mar. 14, in Greensboro, N.C.

After looking like a lock for a No. 1 seed in the NCAA tournament with a 25-0 start, the then-No. 1 Orange faltered with losses to Boston College and Duke, squeaked by Maryland and then fell to Virginia and Georgia Tech.

In what could be called an offensive breakthrough for Syracuse, the Orange scored over 70 points for only the second time since Jan. 7 and are hopeful that this game indicates a righting of the ship.

Three weeks ago, the Florida State game looked like a blip on the radar on the way to an Orange ACC title, but then Syracuse lost its scoring touch and a little of its magic. In victories against the likes of Duke, Pittsburgh and North Carolina State, the Orange kept their cool under pressure and pulled away with close and sometimes miraculous wins.

Over the past two weeks, the Orange used the final minutes of their games to erase the good work of the previous three months of games.

That luck changed at the 11:27 mark of the second half on Sunday. Florida State brought the Seminoles to within one point off an Okaro White jumper and made the score 47-46. That sinking feeling of the Orange letting another inferior opponent stay close began to creep in, but two straight three-pointers by Trevor Cooney put Syracuse up seven to keep the game at a safe distance.

This begs the question: Which is the real Syracuse? Is it the team that handed Villanova its first loss on Dec. 28? Is it the team that beat Duke in an instant classic in overtime at the Carrier Dome on Feb. 1?

Or is it the team that crumbled when Virginia stepped on the gas just over a week ago?

There is no easy answer, but the facts say the Orange are both.

With a healthy Jerami Grant, a Trevor Cooney who is making his threes and a team that plays inspired defense, Syracuse can play with any team in the country.

But when Cooney’s shots aren’t falling and Tyler Ennis makes ill-advised passes and the defense is out of position, among other things, Syracuse can be had teams that are not even on the same level.

This is the problem with Syracuse: It too often plays to the level of its opponent. The Orange expect to win every time and allow teams to dictate pace and slow down the game. This allows opponents to play the percentages with Syracuse and helps hot-shooting teams stay close.

The Orange are the same team that they were when they started the season 25-0 and they’re the same team that lost to Boston College. Some nights they have it and some nights they don’t.

Syracuse needs success in a handful of areas of their game to be victorious. They need their perimeter shooting to fall to keep defenders honest and keep the lanes free of traffic. They have to rebound well. They have to stay out of foul trouble and, most importantly, they have to remain healthy.

On the other side of the coin, Syracuse has immense talent and also needs a handful of areas of their game to go wrong in order to lose games. Syracuse can survive bad shooting nights because their defense is excellent. They can survive foul trouble even with an inexperienced bench because they have the length and ability to fill holes when need be.

Above all, Syracuse can rely on its hot hand. When Fair gets going, he gets fed the ball. When Cooney and Ennis are hot, they make their impact felt often. And when shots aren’t falling from anyone, Grant can come up with impossible putbacks.

The point is that every one of those four players can and has put the team on his shoulders. Syracuse is not a scoring juggernaut, but for the most part, it hasn’t had to be. It has only needed to be opportunistic, which is exactly the ability of the team. None are superstars every night, but each can star when the moment comes.

It would be easy to write that we will find out what type of team Syracuse is when it starts the ACC tournament, but that would be lazy. The Orange will play a 7 p.m. game against North Carolina State, Miami or Virginia Tech on Mar. 14. Whether the Orange win or lose, we already know everything we need to know.

Back in November, I predicted this team of youth and talent either had the ability to get right back to the Final Four or the ability to get bounced around and end up in the NIT.

A very unsatisfying but optimistic look at the season, I know, but that is exactly the Orange of 2014.

Unsatisfying, yet optimistic.


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Syracuse Basketball: The 5 Most Impressive Orange in 2013-14 Regular Season

The Syracuse basketball team is hurting. Losers of four out of five, the Orange (26-4, 13-4 ACC) are watching themselves slide further away from the top line in the NCAA tournament bracket.

The latest loss, at home to Georgia Tech, was especially painful. It was Senior Day for C.J. Fair and Baye Keita, and it was an opportunity to get a much-needed easy win over an underachieving team.

But it was anything but an easy game. Jerami Grant sat out, and the Orange missed his activity inside and his ability to score.

But Syracuse has bigger fish to fry in the postseason, so it’s better to make sure Grant is 100 percent for the stretch run.

If you told Syracuse fans at the beginning of the season the team would be 26-4 while starting a freshman point guard and a shooting guard who barely played last year, they would have been ecstatic. But as the season progressed and this team showed how good it could be, the record now seems a little disappointing.

But these players have still been turning in impressive performances all season, despite the recent struggles. Let’s have a look at the five most impressive Orange players from the regular season. We’ll dig deeper than just statistical output and look at how players responded to adversity and how they fit in to their roles.

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