Syracuse basketball: Will this finally be the year?

CJ Fair certainly qualifies as a "go-to" guy

The Syracuse men’s basketball team will hold its first practice this Friday. With the season fast approaching, many fans are asking, “Is this finally the year?”

Will this be the year that pundits stop writing columns complaining that Syracuse lacks a “go-to” player? One would think that CJ Fair’s status as a frontrunner for ACC Player of the Year and a Preseason 3rd Team All-American would establish him firmly as the Orange’s go-to star. And if that’s not good enough, the Orange have Jerami Grant, who is being mentioned in the 1st round of 2014 NBA mock drafts, coming off the bench.

CJ Fair certainly qualifies as a “go-to” guy

But before we conclude this tired old trope can be retired, consider this. Freshman point guard Tyler Ennis will have the ball in his hands the most down the stretch. He could also contend for “go-to” status. If Grant, Fair and Ennis each prove capable scorers in the clutch, do they cancel each other out as “go-to” players? It could happen.

» Related: CJ Fair in for a big senior year

Will this finally be year that the national media stops criticizing Syracuse for “never leaving New York”? The Orange’s non-conference schedule includes a trip to the Maui Invitational, which is about as far from Syracuse as you can get without leaving the country. I think we’ll finally stop hearing that line.

But wait just a minute. Did you know the Maui Invitational includes “opening games” outside of Hawaii? Syracuse will play St. Francis Brooklyn in the friendly confines of the Carrier Dome. In addition, Syracuse has played in Maui once more than its first “championship round” opponent, Minnesota. Sounds like a home game to me.

Will this be the year that pundits stop suggesting Syracuse should play man-to-man defense? With the praise the Orange’s zone earned in last year’s NCAA tournament, you would think the media elite are finally ready to accept that Jim Boeheim is not going to switch to man defense.

But the answer is no. Although SU’s frontline has the potential to be one of the best in school history, the starting guards lack the size and quickness that made the zone so effective most of the last four seasons. The zone will still be effective, but there are likely to be hiccups along the way. When push comes to shove, wouldn’t you want Syracuse changing a two-decade-long strategy after one bad half?

» More from Jeff Irvine: Projecting how many minutes the SU frosh will play

Will this finally be the year that reporters stop asking Boeheim if he is retiring at the end of the year? The team will be strong for years to come, and Boehiem has shown no signs of slowing down. Perhaps with Syracuse just settling into a new conference, hauling in top-10 recruiting classes each year, and coming off Final Four and Elite Eight appearances, reporters will just let the question rest.

Certainly not. At this point, reporters ask Boeheim just to get a rise out of him. I once heard Post Standard beat writer Mike Waters whisper to Andy Katz, “Go ahead, ask him. I dare you.” CBS Sports writer Gregg Doyle popped the question to Boeheim at the end of last season simply because he didn’t have anything else to write about. Think it won’t happen again? If so, DYST has a great scoop for you.

In the end, we can probably expect more of the same for the 2013-2014 Syracuse basketball season. But with the team perennially contending for a national championship, that’s good news. Eventually, it finally will be the year.

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About Jeff Irvine 107 Articles
Jeff has covered Massachusetts Minutemen basketball for The Maroon and White and The Daily Hampshire Gazette. He has also written for The Daily Orange. Jeff is an Amherst, Massachusetts native, and graduated from Syracuse University in 2006. Follow him on Twitter @jeffreyirvine.