Offseason questions give Orange long odds for 2014-2015 basketball championship

It’s been a long few months for Syracuse Orange basketball fans, and the questions continue to roll in as we head towards the 2014-2015 season. C.J. Fair, Tyler Ennis, and Jerami Grant are all gone, taking with them most of the star powered the 25-game win streak to start last season.

A quick look at this season’s NCAA basketball futures shows that Jim Boeheim’s 2014-2015 recruiting class isn’t expected to come in and dominate the way Ennis and company did in 2013-2014, with the team priced at a distant +3,500 to win the championship.

Still, if last year’s team proved anything, it’s that fortunes can change quickly in college basketball. With that in mind, here’s a look at three key questions that will define the Orange’s 2014-2015 men’s basketball team.

Can Cooney Lead?

Of the top four scorers that drove the Orange’s explosive offense last season, only three-point wizard Trevor Cooney (12.1 PPG) will return. Cooney shot a blistering 50% from beyond the arc in non-conference games last year, but disappeared when it counted, shooting 16.7% percent in the team’s early loss to No. 12 Dayton in the March Madness’ Round of 32.

Cooney will need to step up and show he can be an everyday contributor who can score in more than one way in 2014-2015.

Will It Be a Merry Christmas?

Rakeem Christmas has contributed more and more in each of his three years with the team, with last year’s 5.8 points per game and 5.1 rebounds per game his best yet. Still, there is room for Christmas to dominate inside even more if the man can continue to learn.

Christmas completed his undergraduate degree in a remarkably quick three years, and returns in his last year of eligibility as a grad student, so increasing his on-court decision-making should be well within range.

Will Kaleb Joseph Be the Next Tyler Ennis?

Canadian Tyler Ennis put on a show in 2013-2014, lighting up Division I basketball to the point that his incoming apprentice, fellow high school star Kaleb Joseph, will now be without a master to study under. Joseph figured that out himself last season, however, and has been working to come into the season as ready to lead as Ennis was.

Joseph’s speed and mid-range shooting could see him open up the floor for both Cooney and Christmas in an offense that would be reminiscent of last season’s offensive efficiency.

In short, if Joseph can solidify himself as another one-and-done point guard for the Orange, and in so doing help his teammates improve, this season could see Syracuse retain their position as one of top teams in college hoops.

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The Big Orange was founded in 1992. The publication was one of approximately 50 independent publications devoted to the coverage of its school's athletics programs. The Big Orange was a weekly/bi-weekly print publication until 2002 when it became The Juice, a glossy monthly print magazine which was owned by Fox Sports. The print product ceased publication in June of 2010 and was relaunched as SUJuiceOnline.com in December of 2010.
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