This current crop of the Orange bears some resemblance to the 2009-2010 team. That group lost its top three scorers from the previous year and subsequently carried lower expectations into the season, as it barely was ranked entering the season and predicted to finish sixth in their conference. That SU team, however, had a lot more experience returning, not to mention impact transfer Wes Johnson.
This year’s version lacks that degree of experienced players, but it is still getting a strong influx of young talent. As college basketball has shifted on the whole to a world where freshmen routinely play for top programs, putting reasonable expectations on the shoulders of young, inexperienced teams is accepted.
The key word, though, is “reasonable.” While McCullough and Joseph are highly-touted recruits, they are not likely going to be instant stars who propel the team to the top of the polls. The Orange will count on improved play from their veterans to complement the raw talent on the roster. Without a stronger offensive contribution from Rakeem Christmas and more consistent scoring and perimeter shooting from Trevor Cooney, SU will remain an incomplete team that shows flashes of greatness along with the ability to be mired on offense for long spans.
Their schedule does set up nicely, though, as the non-conference portion alternates a couple contests with lower-level teams with power conference teams, giving the team a chance to work out things, then face top-notch challenges to show them how things stand. It also helps that the first seven ACC games are against teams predicted to be in the middle of the conference or worse, allowing the team the opportunity to come together in conference play. Then, of course, comes the meat grinder to (hopefully) get the team ready for the NCAA Tournament.
With the younger roster, Syracuse will not likely throw up a gaudy win total over the course of the season as they work out some of the kinks along the way. That said, they should still clear the 20-win mark prior to the ACC Tournament. In fact, a solid target for this group is 25 wins and an appearance in the Sweet Sixteen.