As NCAAB bettors recall, the Syracuse Orange were No. 1 in the country for much of last season but failed to cash on the odds in February. How can Syracuse find a way to be stronger this coming March?
Who’s Out, Who’s In?
The Orange lose two very important players, point guard Tyler Ennis and forward Jerami Grant. Those were the two key players who changed the direction of the team last season. Ennis was the freshman point guard who almost always came up with the big basket in the final minute of a game, the player who wanted to have the ball with the game on the line. Ennis played beyond his years and gave Syracuse a level of confidence that most freshmen point guards aren’t able to generate. He’ll be missed now that he’s in the NBA. Grant was a versatile and athletic forward who gave the Syracuse Orange production at both ends of the court. It’s going to be tough for head coach Jim Boeheim to expect the same level of performance from either B.J. Johnson or expected starter Tyler Roberson at the vacated small forward spot Grant leaves behind. Kaleb Joseph is going to replace Ennis this season, and it will be similarly hard for him to replicate what Ennis brought to Syracuse last season.
New players that you’ll see more of for the Orange in the coming season are Johnson and Roberson, two guys mentioned above. Joseph will be more prominent as well. Michael Gbinije could very well be the team’s sixth man, someone who should get starter-level minutes or something close to that. If the Orange need to go deeper into their bench, other options for Boeheim include Buss Patterson, Chino Obokoh, and Chris McCullough for the eighth through tenth spots on the pine. The bottom line is that the players who have left the Cuse in the offseason are proven performers. The new players are not ones that have convinced other teams that they can be great.
The Orange finished second in the ACC behind Virginia last season. If they can finish second in the ACC this season, they’d overachieve. The loss of Grant is significant, and the loss of Ennis is even more significant. Ennis was a special point guard who, if he had returned for a second season in upstate New York, could have made Syracuse a Final Four contender. Without him, the situation is very different. The Orange should be a top-five team in the ACC, with Rakeem Christmas and DaJuan Coleman giving the Orange two long and active big men who can protect the rim and make Syracuse very tough to deal with at the defensive end of the court. However, where will Syracuse get big baskets other than from shooting guard Trevor Cooney, who benefited so much from what Ennis was able to do as a distributor of the basketball? This team also has to deal with Louisville in the new ACC. It feels as though Syracuse will finish fifth.
March Madness Outlook
The Orange do not seem to be the kind of team built for a deep run in March. The oddsmakers agree as they are at 40/1 to win the NCAA Tournament at The Greek.
They’ll make the dance and maybe get a seed in the range of five to six, but that will probably lead to a loss on the first weekend of the tournament.
Free NCAAB Prediction: Fifth in the ACC, round of 32 in the NCAA tournament at a top-rated sportsbook
Also check out our early breakdowns for the rest of this year's opening tournaments.