The Syracuse Orange look to return to their winning ways in 2017-18 despite a difficult ACC to navigate and endless possible distractions.
Syracuse has seen a few mediocre seasons in a row after violations including academic misconduct and the school’s drug-testing policy both tarnished long-time head coach Jim Boeheim’s legacy and left them with fewer scholarships to offer. Despite an unexpected run to the 2016 Final Four, the Orange have found it difficult to sustain any sort of success.
Last year, they fought their way through a grueling ACC schedule to find themselves just short of the NCAA Tournament, with a 19-15 record (10-8 in the ACC). Thus, they had to play in the NIT, where they were ousted in the second round at the hands of Ole Miss.
As the hours start to tick down on the illustrious career of Jim Boeheim, the Syracuse Men’s Basketball program appears to be a shell of its former self. Most were stunned in the offseason when “head-coach-in-waiting” Mike Hopkins left to take over the program in Washington, playing a large role in Coach Boeheim considering to stay beyond this year. Through all of this chaos and the Orange being picked as the 10th best team in the ACC in the preseason poll, they turn their attention to a pivotal year for the livelihood of their program.
Syracuse will be led this season by their guards, as both Tyus Battle and Frank Howard find their way back to the Carrier Dome this season. Battle, a 6-foot-6 guard from Edison, NJ, will be looked at to score the basketball as often as possible given that he is the only player returning in 2017-18 to average more than five points per game last season. Howard will look to run the show as the point guard for this year’s edition of the Orange; his 3.6 assists per game last season was second to only John Gillon.
The big question mark comes in the form of who will be the anchors of the frontcourt and be able to be the rim-protecting presence that the famous 2-3 zone desperately needs. 7-foot-2 Paschal Chukwu may be the most important key to Syracuse’s success this season. Can he be the anchor of the Orange’s defense while providing enough offensively despite only playing in seven games last season? If he is not up for the task, expect promising freshman Bourama Sidibe to get the lion’s share of the minutes in the middle.
Can They Make the Tournament?
It has more than been proven that the 10th place team in the ACC has a legitimate chance to get themselves an at-large bid in the tournament. Syracuse will have a myriad of opportunities to get resume-building wins, as they host Notre Dame and North Carolina this season in addition to playing a neutral site game against Kansas as part of the Hoophall Miami Invitational. If the Orange are able to hang around .500 in ACC play and get a big win against one of their ranked opponents, expect them to be on the bubble come Selection Sunday.
‘Cuse opens the season tonight against Cornell. Tip-off is set for 7:00 p.m. ET and can be seen on ESPN3.com.