Syracuse Orange: Bold Predictions for 2012-13 College Basketball Season
The Syracuse Orange had a great season in 2011-12. They set a school record for regular-season wins by going 30-1 overall and 17-1 in conference play, which is the best mark ever for a Big East Conference regular-season champion.
They earned a No. 1 seed in the NCAA Tournament for the second time in three seasons.
Jim Boeheim tallied his 890th victory as a coach and is poised to surpass legendary coach Bob Knight next season and become the sixth winningest coach in NCAA history.
Three players from last season are projected to be selected in the upcoming NBA draft.
All in all, not a bad season despite a disappointing tournament run for diehard Orange fans.
The team will bring back key players from last year, including senior guard Brandon Trische, junior forwards CJ Fair and Baye Keita, sophomore point guard Michael Carter-Williams and center Rakeem Christmas. They also have one of the top recruiting classes for next season, led by McDonald's All-American DaJuan Coleman.
In his latest Bracketology, ESPN's Joe Lunardi has the Syracuse Orange as a No. 3 seed in the Field of 68.
Here are five other bold predictions for next year's Syracuse Orange...
The Orange Will Defeat the Kentucky Wildcats in the SEC Big East Challenge
While the matchup has yet to be scheduled, it is the most logical pairing for the annual Big East SEC Challenge. The two best teams from a season ago, both stocked with young, NBA prospects, get an early season test against one another. It will have all the makings of a Madison Square Garden nightcap. Thus, it'll happen.
As for the game itself, after Nerlens Noel chose to go to Kentucky instead of Syracuse, Syracuse sophomore guard Michael Carter-Williams tweeted to the top high school player in the country, "I'll see you at the rim dog."
I expect Carter-Williams and Co. to do so early and often as the experienced Orange take down the defending champions in Madison Square Garden and make an early season statement.
The Orange Will Not Win the Big East Regular-Season Title
The Orange caught a break last season. All of their games against tough conference opponents were played in the Carrier Dome.
They did not have to play at Pittsburgh, Marquette, Georgetown or West Virginia. These are historically hostile environments where the Orange struggle.
Expect the Orange to do some traveling this year and as a result, have a few more blemishes on their record. This season, they'll have to be a little more road-tested if they want to repeat as regular-season conference champions.
Louisville and Notre Dame bring back the bulk of their rosters and expect Pittsburgh and Villanova to rebound from disappointing years.
Because of the strength of the Big East, Syracuse will not win the regular-season championship, but they will finish in the top four ensuring them a double-bye in the Big East Tournament.
The Orange Will Win the Big East Tournament
Syracuse hasn't won the Big East Tournament since the 2005-06 season when senior guard and current assistant coach Gerry McNamara led the team on an improbable four-game winning streak to shock the college basketball landscape. People forget how improbable that run was. Before the Big East Tournament began that season, the Orange were projected to not make the Tournament.
The Orange have flirted with the Big East Tournament title the past couple years. They made it to the semifinals in three of the past four years and the final game in 2008. The Orange faithful will put them over the hump this year and give Syracuse their sixth tournament title in their final season as a member of the Big East.
The Syracuse Orange Will Go Undefeated in New York City
An early-season victory in the SEC Big East Challenge over Kentucky will put the Orange at 1-0. A victory in conference play over St. John's will get them to 2-0. Their run through the Big East Tournament will give them three more victories in the World's Most Famous Arena. That's 5-0.
After winning the Big East Tournament, Syracuse will receive a favorable draw from the NCAA selection committee. Expect the Orange to be placed in the East Region. If they make the Sweet 16, they will be playing in New York City, most likely back at Madison Square Garden. That means two more wins on their way to the Final Four.
In total, the Orange will go 7-0 in their home away from home.
And that means…
Syracuse Will Make the Final Four
If the past is any indication, then this Bold Prediction is not very bold at all. The last three Big East Tournament champions have made it to the Final Four. West Virginia, behind the leadership of Da'Sean Butler, did it in 2010. Connecticut, led by the scoring of Kemba Walker, did it in 2011. And Louisville, behind the defensive presence of Gorgui Dieng, did it in 2012.
Syracuse will do it in 2013.