In his 46th season as head coach at Syracuse, Jim Boeheim looks to lead a veteran-based team that he claims is one of the most experienced he has ever had.
After Syracuse basketball made an underdog Sweet 16 run in the NCAA tournament as an 11 seed, the return of veteran players along with some new faces brings anticipation following the strong end to last year.
Here are the biggest questions heading into the 2021-22 that have been brewing since the Orange run last March.
#1: Where is Syracuse’s first real test?
Syracuse will host two exhibition games and then Lafayette, Drexel, and Colgate all in the Dome. After that, the first test of the season for Syracuse comes in the Battle 4 Atlantis tournament.
In 2015, Syracuse took home the Battle 4 Atlantis title and looks to do it again with a tough pool of competition. Beginning with VCU, the Orange are set for a three day tournament with other teams including Baylor, Arizona State, Auburn, Connect, Loyola-Chicago and Michigan State.
This tournament is always an early season test and challenge for all teams. A weekend in Atlantis could really help the Orange, or show them where their weaknesses are in a tournament style setting.
#2: Will Syracuse be ranked?
Despite the strong finish to last season, the Orange saw a lot of their depth depart from the team in the offseason that finished 25th in the Coach’s Poll. These moves along with transfers from other schools have made ultimately dropped Syracuse out of the Top 25 preseason rankings.
Syracuse had five votes in the AP Top 25 Preseason poll, not enough to be considered in the early rankings. The Orange have work to do before they’re back in the polls.
#3: Where will Syracuse rank among the ACC?
There was plenty of action in the transfer portal throughout the ACC in the off season. Along with departures and incoming freshman, the league looks a lot different just five months later.
Syracuse finished eighth in an ACC that saw Duke and UNC outside of it’s top 5 last season. Now, both blue bloods have strong incoming classes along with strong transfers for Clemson, UVA, Virginia Tech and FSU. Add onto that a determined Louisville team that felt they got snubbed in last years tournament, and it makes for an interesting league.
Syracuse has their work cut out for them if they want to finish better than last year at eighth in the conference. They were selected seventh in the preseason poll released earlier this week.
The Orange has a lighter first half ACC schedule, before they finish with tough teams like Louisville, Virginia Tech, UNC, and Duke. Syracuse has to win early and often in the beginning of league play to finish strong.
#4: How will the depth be for the Orange?
Depth at both the guard and center positions have been a problem for Boeheim and Syracuse in recent years. Once Bourama Sidibe suffered a knee injury and multiple players were sidelined for COVID protocols, it seemed at times the Orange had no bench depth.
This does not seem like it will be an issue this season.
Behind Jesse Edwards and Sidibe at center are Frank Anselem and John Bol Ajak. Transfers Jimmy Boeheim and guard Symir Torrence will be key bench pieces.
Especially for a deep tournament run, depth matters more than anything. Jim Boeheim and the Orange hope to not have that headache this year.
#5: Will Syracuse’s perimeter shooting live up to its hype?
Jim Boeheim made it clear that this is the most consistent shooting group he has had, while discussing the trio of Cole Swider, Joe Girard, and Buddy Boeheim.
Buddy shot his best from 3 last year as a junior at 38.3% from deep. Swider at Villanova shot an impressive 40.2% from 3 last year while Girard shot 33.3% from deep for the Orange.
And that’s not even including Jimmy Boeheim. Though he shot just 29.5% as a junior at Cornell, he was the primary offensive option. As a complementary player as a sophomore, a role he’ll assume at Syracuse, he shot 35%, and only adds another perimeter threat.
Shooting is always also about chemistry as well, so how Syracuse spaces the floor matters. Nonetheless, Syracuse looks at the deep shooting as their strong point.