Syracuse Shouldn't Drop Off Too Much Next Season

By Matt Josephs
Bob Donnan-USA TODAY Sports

Heartbreak Hotel is where most Syracuse fans were on Monday when they watched Louisville cut down the nets. The team was a few possessions and poor official calls away from making it to the title game. Change is coming to upstate New York, but what shouldn’t change is the potential this team has to be a factor next season.

The first blow was dealt on Wednesday when point guard Michael Carter-Williams declared for the NBA Draft.  It was an expected move as he will be a lottery pick whether he’s ready for it or not. He played great for the most part in the NCAA Tournament although his disappearance in the Final Four was head-scratching to fans.  The next decision the school awaits is from CJ Fair who may still leave school for the Draft. Fair isn’t expected to go and if he returns will be the leader of the team.  Fair was dominant vs. Michigan and will be a force in the ACC next season.

The other starter returning is Rakeem Christmas who will need a big summer to keep his spot in the lineup.  He averaged over five points per game.  His problem was staying out of foul trouble and not doing things that head Jim Boeheim didn’t like. Christmas will have to hold off Baye Keita who played great defense in the zone, but needs to work on his hands. Between the two, they averaged three blocks per game. We can’t forget about DaJuan Coleman who played in only 24 games as he dealt with injuries and coach Boeheim’s doghouse. It will be an important Summer for him too.

The lineup next season will most likely feature Jerami Grant who had a roller coaster of a year. Grant stepped up when James Southerland was out of the lineup, but then fell back when he returned. Grant provided a spark in the Michigan game and will have to expand his offensive game to improve what he’s already got. Fellow freshman Trevor Cooney needs to improve on his 26.7% from long range as he was brought in for his shooting ability.

There are going to be plenty of new names for fans starting with Michael Gbinije from the Richmond area who transferred to the school from Duke. He’s 6-7 and will bring more length to the zone. The former Blue Devil played in 19 games for Duke, but averaged only six minutes per game. There’s also five new freshmen headlined by Tyler Ennis who is now thrust into the starting lineup at the point guard position. Ennis is the 4th ranked PG by Tyler Roberson and Ron Patterson will also excite Orange fans with their athleticism and scoring.

All this is pointing to an intriguing option to win the ACC next year.  If Fair returns, then the Final Four run of 2013 may be replicated in 2014.

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