The final season in the Big East for the Syracuse Orange is only four games into conference play, but half of the season has already been played.
The less-hectic shores of the ACC beckon to Syracuse for the 2013-14 season, but what that team will look like is a mystery— a mystery we’ll try to figure out now.
After losing Dion Waiters, Kris Joseph and Fab Melo to the NBA Draft and the graduation of Scoop Jardine, coach Jim Boeheim came roaring back with another stacked team ranked No. 6 in both national polls. The sky is the limit for this year’s squad, but one thing we can be certain of; this team will take on an entirely different look next year.
The Orange will lose Brandon Triche and currently suspended James Southerland to graduation, and Michael Carter-Williams seems destined to be NBA bound after this season.
So who is left?
Let’s take a look at what the Syracuse Roster will look like next season.
Junior C.J. Fair has the talent to go to the NBA and has noticeably gained the size needed to compete in the senior circuit.
What’s missing is the polish.
One more year to refine Fair’s abilities and showcase himself as the Orange's leader could do wonders for his draft stock.
Fair has been nothing short of a godsend for Jim Boeheim, and he is the most reliable and irreplaceable man on the Syracuse roster.
Look for next year to be a magical year for Fair, on par with John Wallace’s senior season.
Jerami Grant, the son of Harvey Grant and nephew of Horace Grant, is already making noise for Syracuse.
In James Southerland’s absence, Grant spread the word that he was ready to fill a roster spot with a career-high 13 points and a team-leading five rebounds against Villanova.
Grant has a nose for the ball, tremendous length and a good medium-range jump shot.
If Grant continues to blossom as he has this season, his sophomore year could be a special one as the bookend to C.J. Fair on the baseline.
Rakeem Christmas, the blue-chip sophomore from Philadelphia, came with a lot of promise, but he hasn’t delivered as quickly as Orange fans would like.
He has, however, doubled his averages in scoring, rebounding and blocked shots from a year ago. Christmas will be relied upon to clean up the boards when necessary and to fill the void in the middle of the zone that has been missing since the departure of Fab Melo.
With DaJuan Coleman also being a bigger project than expected, Christmas will need to redouble his offseason efforts and show he’s ready to anchor that frontcourt.
Trevor Cooney, the freshman from Delaware, is a good shooter, but he is streaky and not yet a polished basketball player. Perhaps knowing he can shoot has led him to shoot the ball as opposed to pass it.
Cooney actually has more rebounds than assists this year, which would lead me to believe that Jim Boeheim is not worried about grooming him to be a passer.
It could also be that Boeheim doesn’t want to waste time with Cooney at the point, as happened with Gerry McNamara.
The jury is still out on Cooney, but he has the chops to be a spot-up shooter, and as the shift of the Orange goes from the backcourt to the frontcourt, Cooney may not be asked to do much more than make open looks.
Like Andy Rautins and Kris Joseph before him, Tyler Ennis hails from Canada.
As the possible replacement for Michael Carter-Williams, as a freshman, Ennis will have an immense task at hand, but the highly touted blue chipper should be up for the challenge.
He has excelled against his peers in circuit play, and if he learns quickly, he will get a whole lot of playing time from coach Boeheim due to the lack of depth at the position.
Jim Boeheim has enjoyed great depth over the past few seasons, but the quality at the top of the bench will be a different sort next season.
Baye Keita should be the first off the bench to relieve either Grant or Christmas, but DaJuan Coleman is the mystery.
Coach Boeheim uses Coleman as a starter currently, but the emergence of Jerami Grant should change that.
If not, I see Coleman taking Grant’s position, and Grant being first off the bench to be the spark plug, with Keita still giving relief to the big men.
Another option, who could be a major factor depending on his improvement is Duke transfer Michael Gbinijie. He's been practicing with the team during his mandatory year off due to transfer rules.
The 6'7" forward could be a nice fill-in or even a complement to C.J. Fair on the fast break.
Besides Ennis, four other freshmen will be coming into the Syracuse fold and should be the next crop of household names.
They are guard Ron Patterson and forwards B.J. Johnson, Tyler Roberson and Chinoso Obokoh.
All are highly touted, but expectations are often different from reality.
Coach Boeheim is usually very honest about the skill level and progress of his players, so it won’t take long to get a feel of how the incoming freshmen will be used, but so far, all signs point to a successful 2013-14 campaign.