We’ve gone thru approximately one quarter of the season so it’s time to check in with our insider. Brian Higgins works with Syracuse All Access and is around the team so we picked his brain on this year’s Orange.
1) Assess the squad so far. What do you like?
There’s not much not to like right now. The potential to play such a variety of styles should serve the team well in the long run and makes them really fun to watch. Michael Carter-Williams is showing what we thought was possible when he arrived last year and I have no idea how teams are supposed to guard him. He gets into the lane at will and continues to lead the country in assists. The only minor concern with him is that he needs to cut down his turnovers a bit.
2) What concerns do you have for the team?
Besides MCW protecting the ball, what will the team do if they have a cold shooting game? Coach Boeheim said that without James Southerland’s nine three’s it’s a loss at Arkansas. That said, albeit in strange circumstances, on the ship in San Diego, the Orange showed they can win a game primarily by attacking the rim as well. The only other concern is that a lot of the guys haven’t done it on the biggest of stages yet, but that’s only because of lack of opportunity thus far in their careers.
3) Freshman Impact so far?
It’s growing by the game. Trevor Cooney shook off the redshirt and tonsils rust and started knocking down his threes this week. DaJuan Coleman is a physical monster inside and is starting to figure things out. I like that he’s not afraid to get fouled because he appears to be a much better free throw shooter than the likes of Arinze Onuaku and Rick Jackson.
And when all is said and done Jeremi Grant could be the best player of the three in the long run. His athleticism is through the roof and he‘s shown a combo of basketball skills and IQ too. The only thing that will hold him back this year is lack of minutes. C.J. Fair and James Southerland figure to get that time come close games in Big East play.
4) What should the fans expect the next few games? Any challenges?
Canisius is 6-1 and next up, but they shouldn’t be a huge challenge. Detroit after that could be Boeheim’s 900th win. Their lead guard Ray McCallum is the coach’s son and a former McDonald‘s All American, but the Titans are only 4-4 right now. And then the last game before Christmas is Temple in the Garden. I expect that to be the toughest test of the three, but we all know how the Orange like to show big on the MSG stage.
5) Do you think the Orange would benefit from more out of conference road games?
Well after two No.1 seeds in the last three years, I can’t say it’s hurting them on Selection Sunday. And with the nine true road games that the Big East provides now and the ACC will in the future, the Orange always get plenty of tests before March. Besides Michigan State and a few others, most major conference power teams aren’t off touring other schools campuses at this time of year anyway. The athletic department has to pay the bills, and 20,000 plus in the Dome time after time has a way of doing that.