As we countdown to the start of the college basketball season, The Juice Online will tackle a burning question about the Syracuse basketball team in “Tipoff Countdown.”
Today’s topic: Syracuse lost nearly 58 percent of its offense from last season. Who will pick up the slack and become the breakout player from this year’s team?
When you lose 42.7 points per game from last season’s team, somebody is going to have to step up. With Kris Joseph, Dion Waiters, Scoop Jardine, and Fab Melo all gone from the Syracuse basketball program, it is more accurate to say that a few guys will have to fill the void of not only losing over 57 percent of last year’s total scoring, but also the other things those guys brought to the team.
So who’s ready to take their games to the next level? I’m glad you asked:
Michael Carter-Williams: This is the guy that most often comes to mind when people look at a breakout candidate for the Orange this season. In just over 10 minutes a game last season, Carter-Williams showed flashed of what could be this season. Against St. John’s in Madison Square Garden, he had 13 points, four rebounds, and three assists in 17 minutes. He dished out eight assists in just 18 minutes against Providence. His 6’6″ frame will allow him to see over defenses and cast shadows over smaller guards at the top of Syracuse’s 2-3 zone. The long and lanky point guard has elicited words like “special,” “ready,” and “potential.” Many think Carter-Williams will turn in a season worthy of him being drafted in the NBA next summer.
C.J. Fair: With a lot of holes to fill all across the stat sheet, Fair may be able to fill a little bit of each of those holes by himself. The do-it-all reserve the past two seasons will be thrust into the starting lineup this year in hopes that he can take all the things he does pretty well already and do them all a little better this season. His likeness to former Syracuse forward Josh Pace is uncanny. Aside from both of them being left-handed, Fair and Pace could score a bit, rebound, defend, and distribute. Like Pace, Fair has been more of a complementary piece. Fair was fifth on the team in scoring last season, but second in minutes played. He might just have to bring his scoring numbers up the most to adequately replace the wing play of Waiters and Joseph.
Brandon Triche: If Triche is the breakout star for the Orange this season, it might go the longest way towards Syracuse advancing deep in the tournament this year. From his freshman to sophomore year, Triche upped his scoring from 8.1 a game to 11.1. With fans hoping for another bump up similar to that in his junior year, Triche regressed down to 9.4 points per game. He was the third option scoring option behind Joseph and Waiters and, with the ball in the hands of Jardine more than anybody, it led to more opportunities for Scoop to score as well. Now a senior, Triche must learn to take over games. His personality makes him one to blend in. Slowly, the coaching staff has worked to try to get him to be more assertive. At times last season, that take-over mentality was on display. Seven times, he scored 15 or more points in a game. However, he scored six points or less 13 times. Coach Jim Boeheim will rely on Triche to get him a steady 15 points every night this season. If he’s up for the challenge, it gives the Orange that go-to scorer that is not readily visible on this year’s squad at the moment.
Trevor Cooney: These next two are just shots in the dark because we haven’t seen them in meaningful college games yet. But, while being stowed away during a redshirt season last year, Cooney’s reputation as a sharp-shooter became louder and louder. Rumors of shooting battles in practice between coach Gerry McNamara and Cooney have heightened the anticipation for Cooney’s arrival on the scene. Snice Andy Rautins, the Orange hasn’t had a game-changing outside shooter. It is a missing dimension that, if fulfilled by Cooney, would make him an instant hit with the Orange faithful.
DaJuan Coleman: Rick Jackson was the last true low-post, offensive presence Syracuse had. Now, Coleman, the local kid, brings with him on those burly shoulders of his the potential of a big, wide body that can take a feed in the post and go to work on opposing defense. His combination of size, hands, and footwork can make him a scoring and rebounding machine. And, with the defensive-minded Rakeem Christmas and Baye Moussa Keite as the other big men, Coleman could bring some nice balance to the frontcourt.
James Southerland: A lack of minutes may make it tough for Southerland to spread those long wings of his and fly. A senior, Southerland will still be trapped on the bench with Fair, Coleman, and Christmas expected to comprise the starting frontcourt. He will get decent minutes, allowing him to hoist shots from beyond the arc. His real breakout value may come down to whether or not he can rebound and/or defend better this year, not whether he can shoot the ball better.
Boeheim’s bunch has always been a resilient group, re-tooling on the fly more and more each year. In this new era of vast roster turnover from year-to-year, Boeheim and his staff have always been one step ahead of the game when it comes to recruiting. Carmelo Anthony leaves after one year? There are guys behind him to fill his spot. Dion Waiters’s meteoric rise causes him to leave after his sophomore season and Fab Melo decides school isn’t for him? Call in the reinforcements.
It’s up to the coaches to be prepared for any and all of that stuff. But, it is the players who must rise to the occasion. With a new season comes new opportunities and a fresh start. This year’s edition of the Orange basketball team has many candidates that could rise to the top and become this year’s breakout star.Matt Dagostino