By Bryan Zarpentine @BZarp on April 16, 2014
With the loss of two underclassmen and two senior leaders, including their three leading scorers, the Syracuse Orange could be on the verge of taking a step back next season after a great run of success over the past five years. Here are 10 pressing questions that Jim Boeheim and the Orange face heading into the 2014-15 season.
Syracuse has rarely gone the juco route, but this year could be an exception. The Orange are losing four key players, and of the 10 scholarship players they'll have next season, there are questions about at least two of them being able to contribute next season. Syracuse could use an extra body, especially in the frontcourt, so adding a junior college player is something Boeheim may have to consider this summer.
These two were awfully comfortable on the bench this past season, but the Syracuse backcourt is going to need a boost next year from at least one of them. Either Patterson or Johnson is going to have to earn some minutes at shooting guard in relief of Trevor Cooney and give Syracuse some scoring off the bench, but whether one, or both, will be ready to do so is uncertain.
Gbinije will be best utilized at one of the forward spots next year. Just how much time he gets there will be determined by the play of Syracuse's young guards, because he may need to be the primary backup at both guard spots if the young members of the Syracuse backcourt can't step up and play meaningful minutes.
With C.J. Fair and Jerami Grant both gone, McCullough will likely start from day one. But as we saw with Tyler Roberson this year, freshmen aren't always ready to play right away. McCullough seems to think that he could be a one-and-done player, and he may have to play like it if Syracuse is going to adequately replace the production of Fair and Grant.
Roberson never really got going during his freshman season, but the Orange are going to need him to make a big leap next year. He should benefit from not having such a short leash next season, but whether he will be able to break out as one of the team's leading scorers is far from a certainty based on what we saw this past season, even though he flashed immense talent.
Coleman probably won't ever completely recover from his knee issues, but will he at least be healthy enough to give the Orange consistent minutes next season? Syracuse needs him to be the backup center, as their only other option is redshirt freshman Chinonso Obokoh, who may not be ready to play big-time college basketball. Of course, even if Coleman is healthy enough, how effective can he be after missing so much time the past two seasons?
Syracuse may not have another outside threat other than Cooney next season, so they can't afford him to have another slump that lasts the entire ACC portion of the schedule. Cooney will be the team's leading returning scorer, and he needs to be a consistent scorer next season, even if it means finding other ways to score besides shooting threes.
As the only returning starter in the Syracuse frontcourt, Christmas is going to need to be a consistent contributor at both ends of the floor next season. Defense isn't an issue for Christmas, but he's going to need to find a way to average eight to 10 points next season. He's shown flashes of being a viable offensive player, but next season he needs to show up on that end of the court on a nightly basis.
It's been a long time since Syracuse lost both of its starting forwards in the same year; they usually have someone ready to fill the shoes of their departing star, but that's not the case this year. Fair and Grant leave a gigantic hole in the Syracuse frontcourt, and one way or another the group of Michael Gbinije, Tyler Roberson, C.J. Johnson, and Chris McCullough is going to have to fill it. How that happens is a huge mystery for the Orange.
Joseph has the almost impossible task of replacing Ennis as the Syracuse point guard. He'll give the Orange some things that Ennis didn't, like a scorer's mentality, but will he be able to replicate the poise and maturity of Ennis? More importantly, will he make smart decisions and be able to get other players involved the way that Ennis did? Those are huge questions for Syracuse heading into next season.
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