Orange Watch: Return of starting lineup sets high expectations for Syracuse

Oshae Brissett Notre Dame
Oshae Brissett shoots in the first half of Syracuse's game against Notre Dame. MANDATORY PHOTO CREDIT: Kicia Sears, The Juice Online.

Item: How long has it been since a SU basketball team returned its starting five intact?

When you have had an NBA Draft selection in all but three of the last 14 years dating back to the 2003 championship season, with several of those players being “one and done” or”two and done”, along with occasional transfers both in and out of the program, there’s going to be turnover in the annual starting lineup Jim Boeheim usually sticks with for a season’s entirety.

Tyus Battle’s May 31 decision to return for his junior season and enhance his ability to better compete for a future NBA career, provided Boeheim with an unusual circumstance. Once Matthew Moyer went down with a leg injury after starting the first 20 games, replaced by Marek Dolezaj for the final 17 games, with Battle in the backcourt the starting lineup comes back with a goal to play another week in the NCAA Tournament than March’s surprise Sweet 16 run.

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The starting five’s experience is the most since the 2003-04 and 2004-05 teams. The former featured a starting lineup of Hakim Warrick, Josh Pace and Craig Forth up front, and Gerry McNamara and Billy Edelin/Demetris Nichols (splitting 31 starts) manning the backcourt. The latter had the same quartet of Warrick, Pace, Forth and McNamara, joined by Nichols (8 starts) and new occasional starting guard (16 games) Louie McCroskey.

As a coach who has mastered the art of developing his players that stay four (or five) years in the program, Boeheim, after a couple of underdog seasons producing spectacular NCAA runs in 2016 and ‘18, figures to return to his former role of managing an abundance of talent among 11 scholarship players in what usually turns out to be no more than an eight man rotation by March.

The goal of one-upping last season with an Elite Eight appearance or beyond is a refreshing preseason feeling, something not sensed around this program since the first ACC team won its first 25 games of the 2013-14 season.

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Brad Bierman
About Brad Bierman 514 Articles
Now in his fifth decade of covering SU sports, Brad was sports director of WSYR radio for eight years into the early 1990s, then wrote the Orange Watch column for The Big Orange/The Juice print publication for 18 years. A Syracuse University graduate, Brad currently runs his own media consulting business in the Philadelphia suburbs. Follow him on Twitter @BradBierman.