Syracuse Basketball: 7 Reasons the 2012-13 Orange Are Final-Four Bound
Syracuse basketball is primed for big things next season.
In 2011-'12, the Orange had one of the strangest seasons in recent memory.
Thirty regular season wins.
Six weeks as the No. 1 team in the nation.
A 35-year assistant coach fired after molestation allegations.
A star seven-footer ruled ineligible for the NCAA tournament without explicit reason.
A self-reported violation of university drug policy by past players.
And a run to the Elite Eight.
Most of the time, controversy and distractions off the court prevent a team from finding success on it. But this past season, Syracuse showed great focus and determination to give their season a different story.
Through hustle, talent and great leadership, Jim Boeheim's men turned a season about a nationwide and ever-changing controversy into a season about 34 wins and overcoming adversity.
Here are seven reasons the team will achieve even more in March 2013.
Jim Boeheim will win his 900th game this season and pass Bobby Knight for second place in all-time coaching wins.
In spite of all the negative attention caused by the Bernie Fine situation, Coach Boeheim led the Orange to the best regular season in school history.
Syracuse has also made four consecutive NCAA tournaments and were Big East regular season champs two out of the last three years.
Boeheim creates much of the team's success out of his trusted zone defense. Every team in the nation knows what kind of defense they will face against Syracuse, and yet, teams still can't break it down or prevent Orange fast breaks off turnovers.
Boeheim knows how to get the best out of his players, and the winning attitude around the Syracuse program starts and ends with him.
Great leadership not only means great coaching, but veterans leading by example and demanding the best from their teammates.
Syracuse had great leadership with outgoing seniors Scoop Jardine and Kris Joseph.
Scoop and Kris each had parts of their game that frustrated fans (like how Kris would hide from the ball in key situations or how Scoop loved the "no, no, no, yes!" shot), but both did a great job of leading and battling for their teammates.
Brandon Triche will step up and become the clear team leader this fall.
Triche has seen big minutes throughout his Syracuse career, and his game can sometimes be strong and decisive and sometimes timid and out-of-control. If Triche can minimize his mistakes, he has the physical attributes and big-game experience to put this team on his back at times this season.
If he improves his decision-making and becomes a more vocal presence, he can lead 'Cuse to the Final Four.
I know Kentucky just won the national championship starting three freshman, but experience still counts.
Syracuse is returning five guys who played meaningful minutes in the NCAA tournament.
The other rising senior besides Triche is James Southerland. He contributed 15 points in each of Cuse's first two tournament games after averaging less than seven points per game in the regular season.
C.J. Fair earned a starting position midway through the season. Look for the rising junior to contribute more scoring with the departure of Waiters and Joseph.
Baye Keita is the prototypical Boeheim zone defender: 6'10" of lanky arms in passing lanes. Keita needs to become a rebounding machine if he wants to see his minutes increase.
Rakeem Christmas became the starting center when Melo was suspended. Christmas struggled with the more elite big men in the tournament like Jared Sullinger, but he performed well in the early rounds. Also, players under Boeheim make a good jump over their sophomore summer.
Now that you know who's coming back, who's joining them?
Incoming big man DaJuan Coleman is the prize of this Syracuse recruiting class. Coleman throws his weight around down low and will get plenty of opportunities to show off his physical game in the Big East.
Look out for redshirt freshman Trevor Cooney, as well. Cooney was an elite high school shooter and will be anxious to make a splash after a year in practice clothes.
New Floor General
Syracuse needs a new floor general.
Scoop Jardine ran the Syracuse offense for what felt like a decade. While we're all sad Scoop graduated, his absence creates an opportunity for someone to take the reigns of the Syracuse offense.
While Brandon Triche has more experience under Jim Boeheim, Michael Carter-Williams will become the new primary ball-handler. I still expect Triche to be the senior leader, but he's more of a shooting guard.
MCW is a true point guard. A 6'5" true point guard.
MCW was one of the top recruits in the nation last year. He was surprised by his lack of playing time and may have played nervously when he did.
Now that MCW is further up the depth chart, he can play more relaxed and let the game come to him, instead of trying to impress with only 10 minutes per night.
Look for sophomore Michael Carter-Williams to have a breakout season.
Fab Melo and Bernie Fine are no longer part of Syracuse basketball.
Syracuse can only prepare for the upcoming season with the current personnel. Dwelling on past players, coaches or seasons will not do the team much good, but that doesn't mean they won't be asked about it.
Undoubtedly, the drama from this past season will be brought up, maybe even in an attempt to rattle or embarrass Boeheim or the players. The team handled it when it was new and confusing, and it will be able to handle it when it is old and irrelevant.
A new season means new stories. The Orange will try to make those new stories about basketball and nothing else.
Big East History
This may be Syracuse's final year in the Big East.
Conference realignment threatens the nation's best basketball conference, and the victim seems to be the conference itself.
Syracuse has been part of the Big East for all 33 years of the conference's history.
Known for physical play and great rivalries, the Big East earned a reputation as the best conference in college basketball. That proved especially true in 2011 when a record 11 Big East teams were selected for the NCAA tournament, including national champion Connecticut.
The Big East truly makes its mark on college basketball with the Big East Tournament, held every year in Madison Square Garden. Syracuse has won the BET five times, twice led almost single-handedly by Gerry McNamara, who is not overrated.
The BET is played in the world's most famous arena, and it's one of the marquee events at MSG every year. Without Syracuse and Pitt, the BET won't have the same allure.
Syracuse was involved in one of the best games of all time during the BET, and it's sad to think this may be the final year to make similar memories.
A new conference sounds like an off-court distraction.
Sounds like typical preparation for the Orange.