That was the day this year.
The day after Syracuse is ousted from the NCAA Tournament is the longest day of the year for me. Every time. The desire to watch the tournament games that next day is nonexistent. There is usually some movement towards getting excited for baseball season, which is just around the corner.
But, these days, as a Mets fan, well….yeah.
Moping rules the day. If I were to go hang out at a bar, I’d be seated next to Linus and Eeyore, apparently downing shots of apple juice to fit in with the relative age of my company.
There is a yearning for a pick-me-up, to answer the question, “What’s next?”
In the meantime, we can sit and ponder what’s next for the Syracuse basketball team.
1. Roster turnover.
We knew Scoop Jardine and Kris Joseph would be gone after this season. That, alone, is enough to absorb for next year’s squad. Now, Dion Waiters is forgoing his chance to become a lottery pick next year and entering the draft this season, likely becoming a late first round pick. And Melo was debating leaving after this season anyways. Do you really think a guy who wasn’t eligible is going to work EXTRA hard to get back his eligibility, especially when his mind was already contemplating leaving? It seems likely that Melo has played his last game at Syracuse.
Most would agree Waiters and Melo would REALLY benefit by staying one more year and continuing to develop and improve their draft status. But, it seems like the Orange will be losing three starters and one of the best 6th men in the country.
2. Stepping up.
So, who will be left from this year’s squad? I’m looking at you Brandon Triche. Triche will be one of two seniors on the team next year, with James Southerland being the other. While Southerland’s role should be increased next year (new 6th man?), Triche will be looked at as the one to take over the reins for Scoop and Kris. Triche was the 3rd leading scorer for the Orange this season (9.4 PPG), behind Joseph and Waiters. Never known as a true leader, Triche will have to become that, stepping up his stats and becoming more of a vocal leader.
Maybe the next important guy becomes C.J. Fair. A great glue guy his first two seasons, Fair will become a go-to guy for next year’s team. With averages of 8.5 PPG and 5.4 RPG, Fair showed he can produce. He’ll have to produce more and do it more consistently as one of the upperclassmen.
Then, there are the rest of the guys. Rakeem Christmas showed late in the season he can produce when called upon. He should be a solid low-post presence as a sophomore. Michael Carter-Williams will be given more of an opportunity next year to show what he can do on the floor as a unique matchup problem with his size. Southerland cannot afford to go into the shooting slump he did mid-season this year, as his sharp-shooting will be heavily relied on. Speaking of, Orange fans will finally get to see what Trevor Cooney can do from the outside next season. The redshirt freshman may be the missing link as far as getting a deadly threat from beyond the arc that Syracuse had with Gerry McNamara and Andy Rautins. And Baye Keita showed up big-time in the NCAA Tournament and regained the confidence of the fans heading into next season.
3. Stepping in.
There will be a couple new faces in town next season, too, as the Orange once again bring in a formidable recruiting class. Front and center (literally) is Jamesville Dewitt’s DeJuan Coleman. Following other J-D standouts like Rautins and Triche, Coleman will head down the street and suit up for the Orange next year. At 6’8″ and 280 lbs, Coleman is beastly in stature. He’s also a guy who can move around down low, is a scoring threat, and swallows rebounds. The McDonald’s All-American should be a productive player from Day One, with a chance to be pretty darn good. Jerami Grant, the brother of Notre Dame’s Jerian Grant, comes in as the prototypical Boeheim wing player: long, athletic, lanky. He should fit in well to the 2-3 zone with some tutelage and will be able to fill the bucket.
Those are the two knowns for next year’s class. The possibility of adding center Nerlens Noel to the fold has Orange fans salivating over what could be another really good class for Boeheim’s Bunch.
4. Piecing it together.
So, what does it look like for the roster next year. Best guess, as of now, has it looking something like this:
Bench: Southerland, Cooney, Keita, Grant
For a team this year that was lauded for its depth, next year’s group looks like it could go nine deep with ease. Questions remain, though:
- Does Carter-Williams start or does Triche slide back to PG?
- What does the frontcourt looke like? Does Fair slide to the SF? Does Christmas start at C, forcing Coleman to the bench, Fair to the PF, and maybe Southerland as the starting SF?
As currently constituted, the upcoming team looks good to very good. Adding Noel would add another dimension and leave Boeheim with a good problem to have, trying to find playing time for a packed frontcourt.
The future looks bright. But, for now, the darkness still hangs over. Will I watch the Final Four? Of course. I’ll sit there and watch, wondering what if. I told you before: I believed in this team. I had expectations this year. The team fell short of those expectations. The only way they wouldn’t have would be if they were cutting down the nets Monday night.
But that’s OK. The journey was a pretty darn good one this season. And hey…I’ve still got those Mets games to look forward to, right? Right? Please, somebody…tell me I have something to look forward to with the Mets this season…
Oh. I don’t? OK. Well, seven months until more Syracuse hoops.
I’ll wait patiently…Matt Dagostino