Syracuse has expectations this year.
Of a top 5 basketball team. Of a trip to the final four. Of a chance to play for a national championship.
With a team returning nearly all of its core players, all of those expectations seem reasonable this year.
“We know what we’re capable of,” Kris Joseph said during Syracuse’s media day on Friday. “We know what people expect of us, but we know what we’re capable of and we know that those expectations, we can exceed them, if we all do the right things.”
Joseph will be one of the keys to Syracuse’s success this year. The senior was named a pre-season Blue Ribbon First Team All-American after averaging 14.3 points last year. Another key will be Scoop Jardine, who averaged 12.8 points and 5.8 assists per game.
“Kris is basically the same person as me,” Jardine said. “We are both guys that have been in every position playing for Coach Boeheim. We have come off the bench, we have started, we have not started. We have been a part of a great team. We know what it takes to win so, we bring a lot of leadership ability between the both of us.”
The one player the Orange will be missing this season is Rick Jackson. The senior averaged a double-double in points and rebounds last season, and was named Big East Defensive Player of the Year.
“Ricky was the best inside player defensively and rebounding wise in the league last year and that says a lot,” Syracuse coach Jim Boeheim said. “It’s up to the guys that are going to be in there now to pick up that responsibility that Ricky was so consistent with last year.”
One of the players Boeheim was referring to was sophomore Fab Melo. The McDonald’s All-American came in last year with plenty of hype as the country’s top freshman. But Melo struggled throughout the year, and finished with averages of 2.3 points and 1.9 rebounds per game.
Melo, follow sophomore Baye Moussa Keita and freshman Rakeem Christmas will all be in the mix to fill the center position.
“The expectations people had for me, I thought it would be easier,” Melo said. “I thought I would go there and play and average 20 points a game, something like that. People realized that it’s not like that. I know I had to learn a lot. It was hard for me to deal with that, the expectations people had for me. Now, I’m more mature and it will be better.”
That seems to be the growing sentiment around this Syracuse team this year. More mature. More seasoned. Ready to meet expectations.
“Obviously we are excited,” Boeheim said. “We have a good group of veteran guys and I think they have worked hard in the fall. I think they understand what has to get done.”