As Syracuse starts Big East play this Wednesday against Seton Hall, there are several questions that we’ll find answers to as the season rolls along.
1. CENTER PLAY: Sure, Fab Melo has looked solid down low so far. He’s nearly tripled his production from last season, and is now averaging 6.4 points and 5.4 rebounds per game. But with all due respect to Bucknell, Tulane or Colgate, none of those teams has a player like Alex Oriakhi, Andre Drummond or Augustus Gilchrist. Can Melo hold his own against them? If Syracuse’s matchup with Florida is any indication, the answer is, yes. Melo defended Florida’s Patric Young well, holding him to six points and five rebounds while Melo scored nine points and grabbed five boards.
2. CLUTCH TIME: Two seconds left, Syracuse is down by a point. Who do you want with the ball in their hands? Is it Kris Joseph? Scoop Jardine? Dion Waiters? Brandon Triche? So far, Syracuse hasn’t had to ask that question yet, but you’d better believe it’s going to get asked in the very near future.
3. FRESHMEN: Rakeem Christmas “starts” like Fab Melo “started” last year. Meanwhile, Michael Carter-Williams has gotten more playing time recently, but those were in lopsided games. How much impact will the two freshmen have in Big East play as the teams become more competitive and physical? Are the two ready to make a contribution, or are they still a year away? Syracuse claims that they are 10 deep, but that rotation may shrink quickly.
4. WHO IS JAMES SOUTHERLAND? Is he the sharpshooter who scored 19 points against Eastern Michigan and Albany, or is he the player who played a combined 13 minutes against Virginia Tech and Stanford and went scoreless? Southerland has about as much potential as anyone on the team. Now is the time for him to prove that he can be a consistent and reliable threat.
5. BERNIE FINE: We’re all tired of talking about it, and Syracuse seems to have had no problems since the story broke in mid-November. But with an on-going investigation and perhaps many more landmines awaiting in a road that has been filled with them, you have to wonder if there is a bombshell that will finally affect the team.