The last three seasons have been very touch and go for Syracuse fans. They combined solid wins with bad losses to finish on the bubble all three years. Going into Selection Sunday, nobody knew whether they had a place in March Madness or not. Although they made it to at least the second weekend in the two that they made it, missing the tournament hardly lives up to the tough standards that the Boeheim’s Orange always hold themselves to. This year, though, things are looking different. This year’s Syracuse team is loaded with talent, has a deep lineup, and is full of veteran players that are just dying to make a big run in this year’s tournament.
Admittedly, this year’s team may get off to a slow start without their star point-guard Frank Howard. Their first two wins came without too much difficulty, as they managed a double-digit win over a tough Morrehead State team and a 32 point obliteration of Eastern Washington. Still, though, with a couple tough games against UConn and Ohio State, they may struggle without Howard. They have the talent to beat them, however a loss does not necessarily mean they have any serious problems. Howard will be back in plenty of time for ACC play, though, so you can expect them to really hit their stride and compete for the top spot in league play.
One of the biggest things Syracuse has going for it is the return of its star player, Tyus Battle. After testing waters in the draft last season, he decided to return for his final year of eligibility. That means that he is going to spend this season not only working for wins, but also for a good spot in next year’s draft class. Expect him to work harder than anyone on the team to play as well as possible. He is going to do everything he can to carry this team on his shoulders, and with all of his talent, that could be bad news for the rest of the ACC.
The biggest difference between this year’s team and the last three is how much more talent they have. While the previous Orange squads have had to rely on two or three players to carry the bulk of the load, but that isn’t going to be an issue this year. While Howard and Battle are going to be able to do a lot of scoring, they Oshae Brisset, who is averaging 18.5 points through the first few games, and Paschal Chukwu to provide consistent scoring inside as well as some of the best defense in the country. Add in Marek Dolexaj and Elijah Hughes as top role players, and you have a team with as much talent as any in the country.
While they are going to miss their starting point-guard for the first month or so, and don’t even have the deepest team to start with, this team is still going to be dangerous. Once Howard comes back, they will have an incredibly dangerous team that can beat anyone on a given night. As long as they can avoid serious injuries, it won’t take a bubble-vote to get them into the tournament this season. If everything goes well, they may even be able to capture a 3-4 seed. The sky really is the limit for this team, and they might fly under the radar all the way to April basketball.