This team preview is part of the RTC ACC microsite’s preseason coverage.
Burning Question: Is Syracuse an NCAA Tournament Team?
It may seem like an odd question to ask of a Jim Boeheim team, but remember, this is only half a Boeheim team (he will be suspended for the first half of ACC play). This year’s Orange squad will have talent, as three consensus four-star recruits join a solid group of returnees (Rakeem Christmas and Chris McCullough are the only contributors who won’t be back). But let’s not forget another key fact, which is that last year’s team was not going to be an NCAA Tournament team (self-imposed ban notwithstanding). This year’s team will likely be better, but losing big man Christmas will place a lot of pressure on Michael Gbinije and Trevor Cooney to score more frequently if the frontcourt doesn’t pick up the slack.
The other challenge the Orange will face is the relative strength of the ACC. The league is a great bet to be improved this season (a scary thought), and Syracuse may have drawn the toughest road schedule of any team in the conference. The Orange travel to play every team expected to be in the top half of the league, save Notre Dame. Throw in a non-conference schedule with only two real chances for quality wins (at Georgetown; home versus Wisconsin), and this team could have a tough time earning enough quality road wins for the Selection Committee’s liking. Boeheim teams always win 20 games (last year was only the third time one of his teams didn’t win at least 20 games since the 1977 season); if they can simply achieve that total and those wins include at least nine conference victories, Syracuse has a great shot to return to the NCAA Tournament. Read the rest of this entry »