By Jon Rothstein
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1. SIZE MATTERS
Jim Boeheim has always had terrific size and length for his 2-3 zone but this specific team should take those attributes to a different level. Syracuse’s expected starters are Michael Carter-Williams, Brandon Triche, C.J. Fair, DaJuan Coleman, and Rakeem Christmas — and that means the Orange will have five players on the floor between 6-4 and 6-10. If people thought it was difficult to score on Boeheim’s teams before, things will only be augmented this season.
2. SIXTH SENSE
Not many schools in the country will bring a sixth man off the bench the caliber of James Southerland. The 6-8 senior has waited patiently for an opportunity to play major minutes for Syracuse and he should get just that this season. Southerland was extremely important for the Orange last year after the suspension of Fab Melo and regularly logged time in the Syracuse front court as a stretch power forward. The sharpshooter will log time at three separate positions this season, including shooting guard where he’ll play defensively at the top of the 2-3 zone.
3. FAIR GAME
Boeheim regularly said last season that if C.J. Fair played on a team other than Syracuse he’d be a star — and if Fair shoots the ball as well as he did at Tuesday’s practice, that’s exactly what will happen. The lefty forward has redefined his stroke is now a more than capable three-point threat. With added mass in his upper body, the 6-8 junior looks ready to become one of the better players in the Big East.
4. POWER UP
Forty pounds lighter than he was in high school, DaJuan Coleman looks primed for a Jared Sullinger/DeJuan Blair type of freshman season. The Orange have a slew of talented bigs on their baseline but they all pale in comparison to Coleman in terms of physicality and stature. This mountain masquerading as a man has a soft touch and cerebral feel for a post player who literally looks like an aircraft carrier. Boeheim said he thinks Coleman could be one of the best freshmen in all of college basketball and watching him in action it’s hard to argue.
5. GRANT’S GIFT
Jerami Grant is the best freshmen in the Big East that no one is talking about. The 6-9 forward has all the requisites to instantly be a dominant defender thanks to his ridiculous wingspan. Tailor made for the Orange’s 2-3 zone, Grant could very well be the player much like Fair was last year that people regularly say would be a star elsewhere if he didn’t play with so many other talented pieces.
Like usual, Boeheim has a unit that based on talent should be mentioned among the top five or six teams in the country. The big key will be the play of Carter-Williams at point guard and whether or not red shirt freshman Trevor Cooney can add some offensive pop off the bench. There won’t be a Dion Waiters like there was last year to carry Syracuse as a high scoring reserve but this team’s overall balance may make them better than the squad we saw reach the Elite Eight last March. Should Fair and Coleman have the type of seasons that many expect, Boeheim should again have the Orange right there for a conference title and long run in the NCAA Tournament.
Your prediction for Syracuse? Let Jon know in the comments below!