In late October, the Syracuse Orange basketball team will participate in the 2014 2K Classic at Madison Square Garden in New York City. Normally, games at the Garden are just as favorable for the Orange as those at the Carrier Dome in Syracuse, almost guaranteeing success. In this case, however, the youth and inexperience of the Orange could prove to outweigh the benefits of the home court advantage and be a tough test for the team early in the season.
The Orange will face the California Golden Bears of the Pac-12 in their first game of the tournament. In 2013, the two teams met in the semifinals of the Maui Invitational with the Orange coming out on top thanks to a 28-point performance from point guard Tyler Ennis. With the loss of Ennis and All-ACC forward CJ Fair, the Orange will rely heavily on the sharpshooting of junior shooting guard Trevor Cooney, who contributed 23 points in last year’s meeting with Cal.
In addition, with sophomore forward Jerami Grant opting to enter the 2014 NBA Draft, Syracuse will need incoming freshmen Chris McCullough and Kaleb Joseph to make their presence known early and often. Joseph, who is expected to be the Orange’s starting point guard in 2014, will have especially big shoes to fill replacing the calm, mature Ennis.
Also competing for the 2K title in 2014 are the Texas Longhorns and the Iowa Hawkeyes. This matchup will pit Iowa’s balance and experience against the collegiate debut of the Longhorns’ 7-footer Myles Turner, the second-ranked player overall in the 2014 recruiting class. Either team will be a tough test for the Orange’s second game in the tournament, with Iowa’s three-point shooting a threat to stretch the Syracuse zone, and Texas’ size a potential problem for the youth on the zone’s back line.
Although Syracuse doesn’t matchup favorably with any team in this tournament, Jim Boeheim always finds a way to win tough games, and that trend won’t change this year. What the Orange lack in experience and skill, they make up for with their unorthodox style of play. As a new addition to the ACC in 2013, Syracuse’s zone posed problems for teams that never had to contest with such length and agility before, and that trend will continue into this season.
With abounding uncertainty surrounding the 2014 Syracuse basketball season, the 2K Classic will be an early test for the team. Despite being the tournament favorites, the Orange will have to mature as a team quickly to prevail over the worthy competition in this year’s tournament. Those doubts will go out the window when Syracuse overcomes this adversity and wins the 2K Classic this year.