Syracuse is a young, extremely athletic and talented team that will be streaky all season long. They have only one senior who will see some playing time (Josh Wright) and their starting lineup consists of two freshmen, two sophomores, and one junior. But, while they are a young team, four of those five starters were High School All-Americans. It will be up to Jim Boeheim to make sure these superstars can play together as a team.
So far, so good. The Orange are 2-0 after beating Siena 97-89 on Monday and knocking off St. Joe's 92-89 last night.
The Orange have been led by the preseason Big East Co-Rookies of the Year, Jonny Flynn and Donte' Greene. Flynn scored 28 in the opener and hit the game-winning three pointer against St. Joe's. Greene scored 14 in his debut and was tied for a team best 18 points last night. Greene and Flynn played together in the 2007 FIBA under 19-year old World Championship and it showed against St. Joe's. Flynn hit Greene on a near half-court alley-oop in the first half and a no-look wrap around pass near the basket that Greene slammed home. These two are drawing comparisons to Gerry McNamara and Carmelo Anthony. But, they remind me a little more of Sherman Douglas and Derrick Coleman. Flynn has the vision Douglas had and Greene has the pure athleticism of Coleman.
The Orange's weaknesses are defense and a lack of an established inside presence. The Orange gave up 89 points to Siena and have had some trouble in Boeheim's 2-3 zone. Their defense should continue to improve as they learn what it takes to run the 2-3 effectively. But, Boeheim needs to be flexible. This team can get out and run and zone can really slow the tempo down. Boeheim needs to mix it up and run man defense occasionally; especially when they fall behind by double digits.
Arinze Onuaku is the Orange's starting Center and has played extremely well so far. He redshirted last year after having offseason knee surgery, but looks to be 100% now. He needs to stay healthy and become a defensive threat in that vaunted 2-3 defense. They'll need someone else to step up to fill in for Onuaku when he gets into foul trouble. Syracuse's big men will be tested when they face 7'0 freshman Kosta Koufos of Ohio State on November 21st. Koufos has averaged 18.5 ppg on 62% shooting in his first two contests.
Eric Devendorf looks to benefit the most from the addition of Jonny Flynn. With Flynn handling the ball, it frees up Devendorf to spot up from three-point range. With so many weapons for the Orange, Devendorf will no longer have to attempt to take over a game and force bad shots.
Paul Harris is the smallest big man I've ever seen play. He's listed at 6'5, but there's no way he's over 6'3. But, despite his size he averaged over 7 boards a game as a freshman last season, and is averaging 14.5 rebounds in two games this season. Harris looks more like he belongs on a football field than a basketball court, and last season he probably did. Harris' offensive skills were raw and he'd often try to force his way to the hoop, no matter how many defenders stood in his way. He has worked on his jump shot over the summer and it looks like he could average a double-double over the course of the season.
24-8 - Syracuse has their typical cupcake schedule and should enter Big East play with 12 wins. This year they will not be snubbed by the Tournament committee and they could go far if they learn from the mistakes that are bound to happen with such a young team.