Syracuse Orange Thus Far: Summary, Obstacles and Key Takeaways

“Syracuse fans are spoiled,” said Mike Tirico while announcing the Syracuse versus Michigan game.

The statement may not have hit home at the time, but after another devastating non-conference loss to St. John’s, Syracuse fans are certainly starting to understand the meaning behind the famous alumnus’ words.

With a young team as a result of losing key players Tyler Ennis, C.J. Fair, Jerami Grant, and Baye Moussa Keita last offseason, the Orange (5-3) are off to their worst start since the 2007-2008 season.

 

The Season So Far

Through the first eight games, the Orange has lost three times to California, Michigan and St. John’s.

Although the California game was a rout, the losses to Michigan and St. John’s can be attributed to sloppiness and inexperience.

In the Michigan game, after rallying back from ten points, the Orange found themselves down three points after Spike Albrecht made a clutch three-pointer. Cuse displayed dismal play down the line, turning the ball over not once, but twice in the remaining 30 seconds of the game—after a rogue pass from Chris McCullough and a key mistake by Kaleb Joseph when he lost the ball at frontcourt.

The St. John’s game proved to be a similar tale against a different team. Embarrassingly, the Orange were held to just two points in the final five minutes of the game in the 69-57 loss.

Thus far, a young team and poor execution have categorized the season. “We’re either going to make shots against good teams or we’re gonna lose,” said Jim Boeheim to Syracuse.com. “It’s not that complicated.”

And of course, the legendary coach is correct. As a whole, the team has a field-goal percentage of about 44 percent, a three-point field-goal percentage of a mere 21 percent, also averaging about 13 turnovers per game.

 

Obstacles

Although the season is just under way, in their current state, Syracuse faces a challenging schedule.

They take on a tough Louisiana-Tech (7-2) team on Sunday before traveling to long-time rival Villanova. Then, in conference play will eventually begin in the Atlantic Coast Conference, a division of college basketball that currently features six ranked teams.

The Orange will match up against Virginia, Miami, University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill, Notre Dame and Louisville once, and take on Duke and Pittsburgh twice, among a variety of other formidable opponents. A schedule like this tends to bring out the flaws in everyone, especially on the road.

The question will be if Jim Boeheim’s young team can come together in such a short time. Although struggling, Boeheim has stuck to his core four of Chris McCullough, Trevor Cooney, Kaleb Joseph and Rakeem Christmas. Each has played in over 240 minutes this season, with Michael Gbinije mainly playing 5 spot at 196 minutes on the season.

The problem arises if these five that Boeheim has placed his faith in cannot get the job done. Syracuse does not lack potential stars on the bench, but with little game-time experience, it is hard to imagine any of them getting comfortable in such a short time period.

Boeheim elaborated on the shortage of depth in an interview on ESPN Radio with Brent Axe: “…When guys play well in practice, we try to get them in the games. We haven’t had great practices. We haven’t had anyone who stands out like, ‘Well, this guy should be playing.’”

The fact that no one has yet to emerge could put added pressure on the already underperforming starting rotation.

 

Key Takeaways

Despite the morbid start to the season, Syracuse fans should not lament. There are plenty of positives that suggest this team has the making to be great and get back to their winning ways.

First and foremost, look at the two main returning players from last year: Trevor Cooney and Rakeem Christmas.

Cooney, who last season matched a school record hitting nine three-pointers in a win against Notre Dame, has been dreadful. The man known for being a sharp shooter has a three-point percentage of just 28 percent this season.

Still, to think that this will last with former Syracuse phenom Gerry McNamara coaching is ridiculous. Once Cooney gets used to being a leader, he will be back draining shots again. He showed signs of life against Michigan, hitting a barrage of three-pointers in the second half.

Then there is Rakeem Christmas, perhaps the Orange’s most valuable asset. The big man has been in foul trouble a lot this season, and it has made a huge difference. Unlike past years, there is less depth down low, making it more of a necessity for him to stay in the game. As a senior though, Christmas has experience and is playing great this year; he should soon be able to adapt to the situation better.

Finally, it is hard to miss the Orange’s brightest star, Chris McCullough. Ranked as a high prospect coming into the season, the freshman has lived up to the hype.

McCullough is averaging 14.4 points and 8.8 rebounds per game. To Jim Boeheim’s dismay, Chad Ford from ESPN has McCullough as the No. 10 pick in his NBA mock draft. But before any decision-making arrives, make no mistake, McCullough will have many great performances for the Orange.

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Syracuse Basketball: Ways Orange Must Improve Before Conference Play

The Syracuse basketball team is off to an uncharacteristic start this season. The Orange (5-3) have lost back-to-back games and have several tough games remaining before ACC play begins. Included in the nonconference schedule is a trip to Villanova, which is currently ranked seventh in both polls.

Based on the way Syracuse has played lately, games that could once have been considered gimmes are no longer easy wins. If the Orange want to be competitive in conference play this year, they have to make the most of the remaining nonconference contests.

Let’s have a look at a few areas the Orange must focus on ahead of the start of ACC play.

 

3-Point Shooting

Anyone who has been watching Syracuse play this year knows three-point shooting has been a problem for Syracuse. Considering Trevor Cooney was the only returning three-point threat, it was expected the Orange would struggle a bit from deep.

But no one expected the Orange to be this bad. Of 351 teams, Syracuse (shooting 21.1 percent from three this year) ranks 350th in the nation. Yes, only one team (fellow ACC member Florida State) has been worse than the Orange from the land of plenty early on this season.

How can the Orange improve their terrible early shooting? One way is just to keep shooting. It seems highly unlikely a team will shoot 20 percent from deep for an entire season. Eventually, some shots have to start falling.

But other than that, the Orange could tweak the way they look for their shots from deep. We’ve mentioned in the past how the Orange could borrow from the Golden State Warriors playbook and use the “elevator doors” play.

If Rakeem Christmas and Chris McCullough are the screeners, they can help Cooney get a good look at the top of the key. And if multiple defenders close out on Cooney, he could look for either Christmas or McCullough rolling toward the rim. 

In addition, the Orange could alter their spacing on the floor. When either Christmas or McCullough posts up, generally Cooney is on the opposite side of the floor. This allows opponents to more easily double-team because they don’t have to worry about the inside player kicking it out to a shooter.

If Cooney is on the same side of the floor as the post player, however, teams will be less willing to double the post in fear of leaving Cooney open. And having Cooney closer to the post player with the ball makes it easier to pass out of the post, because the inside player doesn’t have to pass as far across the floor.

If the Orange use some different plays and floor spacing, it can help create more open shots. And if they use their spacing to discourage double-teams, it will make things easier inside, which is where they’ve had the most success this season.

Speaking of which…

 

Offensive Philosophy

We know the Orange have struggled to shoot so far this season. When they have had success on offense, it has come inside with Christmas and McCullough. The two Orange big men are the team’s top two scorers, with Christmas averaging 16.9 points per game and McCullough scoring 14.4 per. 

You would think that since the Orange have two talented post players, they would run their offense through them, right? So far, that hasn’t really been the case.

According to Hoop-Math, Syracuse shoots 67.2 percent on shots at the rim. Considering McCullough and Christmas are the leading scorers, that makes sense. However, only 38.3 percent of Syracuse’s shots come at the rim.

Until the shooting issues are figured out, the Orange should run their offense through the post as often as they can. It is difficult sometimes, because opponents can freely double-team since there isn’t much of a shooting threat.

But if Cooney is on the same side of the floor as we discussed earlier, that could change things.

In addition, Kaleb Joseph is still finding his way as a college point guard. He’s had trouble getting the Orange into their offense at times, and sometimes he can’t get the ball in the post when he needs to. That has, in part, led to his turning the ball over 3.3 times per game.

Orange fans were spoiled by Tyler Ennis’ steady play last year, but Joseph is more of what a normal freshman point guard looks like. As he continues to gain experience, he should find it easier to execute the offense.

In the meantime, Michael Gbinije can be used at point guard if Joseph struggles. That was the case in the most recent game against St. John’s, in which Gbinije played 37 minutes and Joseph only 19.

Gbinije provides more experience, and if he plays small forward on defense and point guard on offense, it can create some matchup problems for the opponent.

As is normally the case, Syracuse’s defense can keep it in just about any game. It has been the offense that has held the Orange back so far this season.

Once ACC play gets going, the defenses and opposing players will get better. If the Orange can work on improving their offense, they will be able to compete in the gauntlet that is the ACC.

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Syracuse Basketball: Trap Games Orange Must Watch out for in 2014-15

The Syracuse basketball team wasn’t supposed to give Michigan so much trouble. The Wolverines are ranked in the top 20, and Syracuse is unranked. Michigan is a team that loves to shoot threes, and Syracuse’s zone defense invites teams to shoot it from deep.

And yet there were the Orange, down one with two different chances to hit a game-winning shot after a Michigan player missed the front end of a one-and-one. Unfortunately, the Orange’s youth caught up with them, and the two freshmen made freshman mistakes and turned the ball over.

There are no such things as moral victories, but the Orange should feel pretty good about their 68-65 loss in Ann Arbor. Jim Boeheim’s young squad battled back from a double-digit deficit on the road against a quality opponent. If it weren’t for the inexperience, Syracuse probably could have stolen the game.

Even though Syracuse wasn’t expected to win against Michigan, there will be games they are expected to win throughout the season. Let’s take a look at a few trap games the Orange could encounter as they navigate through the year.

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Syracuse Basketball: 5 Early Adjustments Orange Should Consider

After Tuesday night’s 68-65 loss to the No. 17 Michigan Wolverines, the Syracuse Orange men’s basketball team finds itself going back to the drawing board.

Since a Nov. 21 loss to Cal in the 2K Classic semifinals, Syracuse (5-2) found a way to bounce back and take out a respectable Iowa squad and seemed to fine tune its defense against a couple inferior opponents in Loyola-Maryland and Holy Cross.

The Orange looked confident on the road in Ann Arbor and took a two-point lead at the half, but 19 turnovers and poor rebounding allowed Michigan to improve to 6-1 while Syracuse travels home to search for answers.

Syracuse is a young team, with two of its starters being freshmen Kaleb Joseph and Chris McCullough, and Rakeem Christmas, Trevor Cooney and Michael Gbinije being the only players on the roster who contributed meaningful minutes last season. Additionally, the absence of forward DaJuan Coleman, who is recovering from knee surgery, has placed Christmas in a bind where he can ill afford to commit fouls as he is the team’s main sources of offense.

The Orange will need to learn on the job but time is running out on the out-of-conference schedule. Saturday, Dec. 6, a decent St. John’s team will visit the Carrier Dome and two weeks later, on Dec. 20, Syracuse will travel to Philly to face No. 10 Villanova. Those are the only respectable games left before the ACC schedule starts on Jan. 3, at Virginia Tech.

If the Orange want to clean up their act, they’ll have to take care of business against the Johnnies at home and spend the next two weeks studying Villanova tape. Without those two games, the Orange could have a very tough time avoiding the NIT.

All is not bad for Syracuse. The Orange showed signs of life with a run to tie the game with a minute left against Michigan after trailing by 10 with 7:00 left on the clock. Cooney came alive in the second half with a handful of three-pointers, McCullough grabbed some key rebounds and Gbinije was a spark off the bench, a la Dion Waiters.

This Syracuse team is good at a lot of things but not great at anything. With a few adjustments, the Orange can speed up the clock and improve ahead of schedule.

Here are five of those adjustments.

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Syracuse Basketball: Continued Interior Scoring Key for Orange to Beat Michigan

Syracuse can earn a marquee non-conference win against Michigan if it simply plays the game it’s capable of playing.

While the Orange are 5-1 to start the season, there are plenty of questions about how they will fare against top opponents going forward. The win over Iowa was solid, but they were barely competitive on a neutral floor against California.

Even the dominant victories over teams like Holy Cross and Loyola featured plenty of issues, including high turnover rates and poor outside shooting. The most recent victory saw the squad miss all 14 of its shots from beyond the arc.

As Seth Greenberg of ESPN notes, this is a major difference in the upcoming matchup:

Although this would be concerning in most cases, this surprisingly plays right into Syracuse’s hands. The team doesn’t need to even think about its outside shooting when its interior scoring can be enough to beat the Wolverines.

The stars for Syracuse through the first few weeks of the season have undoubtedly been Rakeem Christmas and Chris McCullough.

One is a senior who never averaged more than six points per game, and the other is a freshman who many thought was too raw to contribute right away.

Despite limited expectations, the duo has been outstanding while combining to average 32.8 points, 17.5 rebounds and 4.8 blocks per game. 

Christmas’ improved play has been one of the top storylines across college basketball, as he has found a way to be aggressive around the rim while still being an efficient scorer. KenPom.com (subscription required) lists him fifth in the nation in the Player of the Year standings.

The transformation into becoming a go-to option offensively has seemingly been according to plan for head coach Jim Boeheim.

“I was just getting the ball in the post,” Christmas explained after scoring a career-high 25 points in the win over Holy Cross. ”Coach said if they weren’t doubling me, just go to the rim, and that’s what I was doing. Just went up with it.”

Meanwhile, McCullough has been just as impressive while turning himself into a legitimate NBA prospect. He currently ranks No. 11 on the 2015 NBA draft board, according to ESPN’s Chad Ford, who apparently has seen some backlash from fans recently:

With the way he has played recently, the Orange faithful might have to just start hoping for as much production as possible this year before he moves on to the next level.

This duo’s strength, athleticism and skill level inside should be exactly what the team relies on against Michigan.

While the Wolverines do have plenty of talent, the biggest weakness is the interior defense. After losing Mitch McGary, Jordan Morgan, Jon Horford and Glenn Robinson III from last year’s team, the squad is left without much experience in the frontcourt.

Freshmen Mark Donnal and Ricky Doyle have improved since the start of the year along with junior Max Bielfeldt, but this group is still below average when it comes to protecting the rim. Skill level aside, none of these players have the size or athleticism necessary to affect shots inside.

California’s 6’10″ forward David Kravish helped limit Christmas to just eight points on 3-of-10 shooting in Syracuse’s only loss of the season. Unfortunately, no one on Michigan has the length or the experience of the Bears senior.

Against the Wolverines, Syracuse has to keep giving the ball to Christmas and McCullough and let the duo take as many shots as possible. There is no reason these two players shouldn’t combine for at least 40 points in the matchup.

It is always fun watching Trevor Cooney chuck up shots while Kaleb Joseph also tries to create for himself, but every outside shot will be a step toward a loss.

As for the defense, Michigan’s outside shooting will be limited by a 2-3 zone that is much more aggressive than most. The idea of shooting over the defense won’t work against a unit that currently ranks 31st in the nation in opponent three-point percentage and seventh in overall shooting percentage.

KenPom.com rates the Orange as the No. 5 most efficient defense in the nation to start the year.

Assuming this is able to continue against the slashing and shooting of the Wolverines, the only question is whether the offense can get the points it needs to win. As long as the players feed the post and utilize its biggest advantage, Syracuse should be able to earn a tough victory on the road.

 

Follow Rob Goldberg on Twitter for the latest breaking news and analysis.

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Syracuse Basketball: Early Concerns for Orange in 2014-15

After an uncommon early-season loss, the Syracuse basketball team rebounded with two straight wins. The Orange followed the loss to California at Madison Square Garden with a win over Iowa in the 2K Classic consolation game and then returned home for a 70-37 drubbing of Loyola (Maryland).

Syracuse will next welcome Holy Cross to the Carrier Dome on Friday before traveling Ann Arbor to face Michigan in the ACC-Big Ten Challenge. 

Even though they’ve only lost one game, there have been some struggles along the way for the Orange. Holy Cross, who beat then-No. 25 Harvard in the first game of the year, will be no pushover. That will be especially true if the Orange are still full from Thanksgiving or looking ahead to the Wolverines.

If the Orange want to beat Holy Cross and have a chance against Michigan, here are a few things to focus on.

 

Transition Defense

One thing you hear announcers talk about a lot during Syracuse broadcasts is how to best attack the 2-3 zone. One of the best ways, they say, is to beat it down the floor in transition. If you don’t allow the zone to set up, it becomes much easier to score against it. Otherwise, you can find yourself passing around the perimeter until you have to force a shot late in the shot clock.

So far this season, the Orange have been caught jogging back on defense far too often. Per Hoop Math, Orange opponents have an effective field-goal percentage of 56.2 percent on shots off of a rebound within the first 10 seconds of a possession.

Opponents are also shooting 66.7 percent on two-point jumpers in that scenario and 37.5 percent from three. Compare that three-point defense number to Syracuse’s overall mark of 28 percent, and you can see how much better the Orange defense is when it can get set up.

If you allow opposing players to step into rhythm threes in transition, it can help them get into a groove. If a team starts feeling it from deep against the Orange, it could make for a very long night.

Of course, there is an easy way to help sort this problem out. The Orange can simply sprint back on defense. If Syracuse doesn’t allow the opposition to outrun its defense, it will force opponents to play at a slower pace. Considering the Orange offense has been struggling, keeping opposing offenses in check is a big help. Speaking of which…

 

Three-Point Shooting

To borrow from the immortal Dennis Green, the Orange are who we thought they were so far this season. They have struggled to make jump shots, which in turn is bogging down the entire offense.

There are no advanced stats needed for this one. The Orange have only made 23.4 percent of their threes on the year. Trevor Cooney leads the way at 31 percent. And he’s supposed to be the specialist.

Not only does throwing up brick after brick (Michael Gbinije even hit the side of the backboard against Loyola) directly affect the scoreboard, it hurts the rest of the offense as well. If the Orange aren’t making shots, opponents won’t respect the shooters as much. That, in turn, with allow defenders to sink into the paint more and make it difficult for the Orange to operate inside, which has been their strength early on.

The offensive woes become especially problematic if the opposition has it going from deep. If Syracuse’s opponent is making threes but the Orange can’t, it would take a superhuman effort inside from Rakeem Christmas and Chris McCullough for the Orange to keep up.

And if one of those inside players has to sit, the Orange encounter another problem altogether…

 

Center Depth

The Orange essentially have no backup center at this point. Without DaJuan Coleman, Rakeem Christmas’ only relief comes in the form of Chinonso Obokoh, who didn’t play at all last year. Because of his inexperience, Obokoh can’t yet be relied on to anchor the defense for any extended stretch.

And Obokoh would force the Orange to essentially play four-on-five on offense.

McCullough can hold his own in the middle, but the Orange would much prefer having Christmas in there. But he is still prone to the head-scratching foul every now and then. Both McCullough and Christmas play extremely physically on defense, and if a referee decides to call a game tightly, they could both wind up with foul issues.

There is not much the Orange can do to remedy this problem at this point. Christmas just needs to do his best to stay out of foul trouble. Right now Christmas is getting 28.6 minutes a night. He needs to be well above 30 to give the Orange the best chance to win.

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Syracuse Basketball: What Orange Must Do to Be Ready for Michigan Showdown

The last time we saw the Syracuse Orange on the national stage, they fell to Cal by 14 points at the 2K Classic in New York. 

On December 2, the Orange will light up the marquee once again when they visit Ann Arbor to face No. 19 Michigan in the ACC-Big Ten Challenge. 

Since the humbling loss to the Golden Bears at Madison Square Garden, Syracuse has pulled off two solid wins over Iowa and Loyola (MD). To be fair, neither of these teams are comparable to the talent on the rosters of Cal and Michigan. But it is nice to see Jim Boeheim’s side respond well to an early defeat. 

One game remains on the schedule for the Orange against Holy Cross Friday before the focus can be fully shifted to the showdown at Crisler Center. With Michigan on the horizon, the Orange do need to improve on a few more things before they can claim they are ready for Tuesday’s road trip. 

If you look directly at the box scores of the past three games, only three players in each game have found their way into double digits. In the last two games, Chris McCullough, Rakeem Christmas and Trevor Cooney have been the only players to score over 10 points. 

While having three consistent scorers is a nice thing, it is also valuable for a team to have a plethora of different contributors. Michael Gbinije and Kaleb Joseph did score 13 and 12, respectively, against Cal, but neither player has reached 10 points since. 

What that says to Michigan is it can focus on shutting down one of the three key players on the defensive side of the ball. If they are successful in taking McCullough, Christmas or Cooney out of the game, the Wolverines could be on their way to a blowout victory. 

One way to keep some of the big guns in the game is to throw up some early shots from beyond the arc. When he gets hot from three-point range, Cooney can turn into the best shooter on the court. 

In five games this season, he is 9-of-29 from three-point range. Six of those triples have come in the past three games. With Cooney beginning to find his shot from downtown this season, the Orange could hold the upper hand in the backcourt against Michigan. 

If Cooney continues to shoot well from beyond the arc, it will open up the offensive game plan for Syracuse. With more attention on the star guard, the players in the paint will not see double-teams as much, which could lead to a scoring outbreak in the frontcourt led by Christmas. 

One department in which Syracuse will not have an advantage against the Wolverines is depth. Boeheim will use seven players for most games, although an eighth could get involved depending on certain situations. 

On a good night, the Wolverines can go 10 deep, which is something that should concern Syracuse a bit. If one of the Orange starters gets into foul trouble early, they may not have a solution off the bench to replace a player like McCullough or Christmas. 

To prevent that from happening, Syracuse must work on attacking the basket early and often to force the Michigan big men into foul trouble. The main man to pressure will be freshman Mark Donnal, who earned two fouls in the first half against Villanova in the Legends Classic final. 

On the defensive side of the ball, Syracuse must continue to dominate down low like it did against Loyola (MD). In the 70-37 win over the Greyhounds, the Orange frontcourt held Loyola’s starting big men to zero points and three field-goal attempts. 

It will be nearly impossible to shut out another team in the paint this season. But if the Orange can hold a team’s starting frontcourt duo to less than 10 points on any given night, they will be in great shape. Syracuse has a real chance of doing that against Holy Cross at the Carrier Dome Friday. 

The other factor that can play to Syracuse’s advantage is its zone defense. As we have seen on countless occasions in the past, Boeheim’s zone can frustrate an opposing backcourt for the entire 40 minutes. If the zone is as effective as it could be over the next two games, Syracuse could leave Crisler Center with a big nonconference win. 

Taking down a dangerous Michigan team will not be an easy task, but the Orange have the talent and game plan to shut down the Wolverines for long stretches of the game. If everything comes together perfectly, Syracuse will be high on confidence heading into its other game against a ranked opponent outside of the ACC December 20 at Villanova. 

 

Follow Joe on Twitter, @JTansey90

All statistics obtained from ESPN.com. 

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Syracuse Basketball: Super-Early Grades for Orange Starters

The Syracuse Orange men’s basketball team is off to a 3-1 start after salvaging the consolation game of the 2K Classic against Iowa (66-63) in Madison Square Garden on Friday night.

The previous night, Syracuse suffered a 73-59 beating from California—thanks to a three-point barrage and a stagnant offense. The loss to Cal in the 2K semifinals was the Orange’s first November loss since a loss to UMass in 2007.

With a new-look Syracuse team, it is understandable to have struggles early in the season, as the team will need to undergo a few growing pains in order to gain its true form.

The unranked Orange are without former standouts C.J. Fair, Jerami Grant and Tyler Ennis due to graduation and NBA aspirations. Without the trio, the Orange will have to make do with a few familiar faces and a handful of new Orange players.

Among the returnees are shooting guard Trevor Cooney and forward Rakeem Christmas.

Cooney spent the first 25 games of last season as a sharpshooter for the Orange, pushing the team to a No. 1 ranking. But double-teams, exhaustion and a few dry spells cooled off the Orange sniper (whose form coincided with Syracuse finishing 3-6 after running through its first 25 games unblemished).

Christmas spent last season as a role player, averaging 5.8 points per game and 5.1 rebounds. After getting his degree in three years, the graduate student will look to emerge as a prime-time player. He’s nearly tripled his scoring and doubled his rebounding from last season.

New to the Orange are point guard Kaleb Joseph, who has the task of replacing Ennis, and forward Chris McCullough, who will have to play the role of Fair and Grant—at least until forwards such as Tyler Roberson and Chinonso Obokoh are ready to contribute in a meaningful way.

With the season just starting, it is too early to know how this team will look once it hits midseason form, but we can take a look at how it’s doing so far (at least as far as the starters are concerned).

We’ll use a standard grading system, with “A” being outstanding and/or greatly exceeding expectations, “B” being playing well and/or better than expected, “C” being average and/or playing just up to expectations and “D” meaning that the player is playing poorly and/or far below expectations.

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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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