The Juice is Back: Why Syracuse Basketball Could Win the ACC in 2019

Photo by Stephen Baker.

Syracuse basketball left the vaunted Big East Conference in 2013 to join the ACC. Waiting for them were perennial powerhouses Duke, North Carolina, Virginia, and Louisville. The Orange now play in what is widely considered to be the best college basketball conference in the country. Coach Jim Boeheim, who is seventh on the career wins list, is in the twilight of his career. In 43 years as head basketball coach, he has led Syracuse to 34 NCAA tournaments and won a national championship. He is putting off retirement to try and lead his team to another national title.

The last time the Orange cut down the nets was in 2003. What has hampered them in recent years has been their poor seeding in the NCAA tournament. To get a better seed in the Big Dance, the ‘Cuse first need to compete for an ACC conference championship. With a great incoming freshman class and the return of some key starters, this is the year that Syracuse can win the ACC.

  • The Orange will be welcoming Rhode Island High School Player of the Year Brycen Goodine. Out of St. Andrew’s High School, the guard averaged a gaudy 21.1 pts per game to go with 6.5 rebounds, 5 assists, and 2.4 steals in his high school career. He shot an unprecedented 52.3 percent from 3-point range, and should be ready to start for the Orange as point guard in 2019. The head coach of Cushing Academy was quoted as saying, “Brycen is a high-level athlete that can do just about everything on the floor.” Goodine has the skill set to be a future potential NBA draft pick.
  • Another incoming freshmen with high level talent is four star recruit Joe Girard III. Girard scored 52 points in his final game to end his high school career with more than 4,000 points. That puts him in the top 20 high school scorers of all time. He is a scoring machine who averaged 49 points in his senior year, and should help jump start the Syracuse offense. The ACC is known for having high scoring games. Duke and North Carolina will want to run up and down the floor. The way to win these conference games is to have exceptional guards that can shoot the 3 and pass the ball effectively. Girard and Goodine can be one of the best guard combinations in the country.
  • The Orange return with most of their players from 2018. This includes Jalen Carey, Elijah Hughes, Marek Dolezaj, Oshae Brissett, Bourama Sidibe, and Buddy Boeheim – son of the head coach. That’s a lot of experienced players to go with the incoming freshmen. Syracuse shot 33 percent from 3-point range last year and made 68.5 percent of their free throws. Both of these numbers should improve significantly with the additions of Goodine and Girard. The Orange are also in dire need of a point guard who can distribute the ball. The team assists leader in 2018 averaged a paltry 2.9 per game. Much improved guard play to go with a sound foundation of veteran forwards will give the ‘Cuse their most well-rounded roster in years.
  • Duke and North Carolina are losing their best players. Superstars Zion Williamson and R.J. Barrett are leaving Duke, while Coby White, Nassar Little, and Cam Johnson are leaving North Carolina. These players were dominant in the ACC and all project to be top-25 NBA draft picks. That’s five of the best college players in the country coming from two teams in the same conference. With these guys gone, the time is right for the Orange to overtake these teams in the ACC standings.

This would be the ultimate swan song for Jim Boeheim: win a conference and possible national championship with his son on the team before heading off into retirement. Boeheim will be as motivated as ever before, and I wouldn’t bet against him in 2019.

Photo by Stephen Baker.