Syracuse Basketball: Ranking the Orange's Most Exciting Players
The Syracuse Orange posses a roster of both experienced veterans and talented underclassmen that bring excitement to every game. Currently ranked ninth in the country, the Orange sit at 19-3 (7-2) and look ready to make a long run in the NCAA tournament.
The strength of Syracuse this season lies in its backcourt duo of Brandon Triche and Michael Carter-Williams, both of whom will likely wind up on NBA rosters next season.
Injuries and a suspension to Big East Sixth Man of the Year candidate James Southerland have caused the Orange to falter a bit as of late, losing two of the last three games. Even with those loss of players, the roster, while not as deep as it was to start the year, is still loaded with talent.
With the season winding down, let's take a look at five players who can be considered the most exciting players on the team. For this slideshow, rankings were based on both the overall body of work for the season and the ability to change the flow of a game.
5. Trevor Cooney
Freshman guard Trevor Cooney hasn't been a huge factor for the Orange in his first season, but he's definitely exciting. Though he averages just 13.5 minutes a game, he's tied for third on the team in three pointers made and can score points in bunches if he gets hot from beyond the arc.
Cooney currently averages 4.5 points a game, but he does have four games this season in which he put up double-digits. His best game of the year came on December 8 against Monmouth. In that game, the the freshman scored a career-high 15 points, including five of nine from three-point land.
While there is room for a lot of growth, Cooney has the potential to develop into a leader on offense for the Orange in the very near future. He's a raw talent who has an ability to shoot the basketball.
Cooney will certainly go though rough spots, but when he catches on fire from the outside, look out.
4. Rakeem Christmas
Rakeem Christmas is the type of player who fits perfectly into Syracuse's 2-3 zone defense. He's a big body who can make it difficult for teams that try to drive the ball into the paint. His shot-blocking ability and presence on the glass are what make him an exciting player to watch.
He recently showed in the game against Notre Dame why fans need to keep an eye on him. He elevated for a huge block against Jerian Grant of the Irish and finished with a total of four blocks in the game.
Christmas can be a solid contributor on the offensive end, though his production is inconsistent. He averages just 6.5 points a game, but does have seven games in which he scored in double-digits.
His value to the team lies on defense. The sophomore leads the team with two blocked shots per game and his 5.4 rebounds per game put him second in that category.
3. Brandon Triche
Brandon Triche is the senior leader of the Orange and is in the middle of a solid season. The guard leads the team in scoring with 14.5 points a game. He can make plays happen with both his passing and ability to hit the big shot.
What makes Triche exciting is the fact that he could be having a quite game, and then all of a sudden step up and make a big impact. He has several games this year in which he took over the offense and shouldered the scoring load.
Triche's best game of the year came on January 2nd against Rutgers, where he scored 25 points and added six assists. He was also instrumental in the Orange's victory at Louisville, grabbing six rebounds and pouring in 23 points, including five of seven from behind the three-point line.
The senior has come up big in his final year and has given fans many reasons to cheer this season.
2. C.J. Fair
Enough can't be said about the play of C.J. Fair this season The junior forward is second on the team with 13.9 points a game and leads with 7.1 rebounds a game.
Fair provides excitement at both ends of the court and is a major reason for the Orange's success this season.
He has shown the ability to rise up in big moments as games are winding down. While the team has really struggled from the foul line, especially late in games, Fair has shot a consistent 83 percent from the stripe.
In an earlier victory over the Cincinnati Bearcats, Fair showed why he is one of the most exciting players on the team. Late in a close game, he not only made two big free throws and had a steal with 47 seconds left, he also grabbed an important offensive rebound with time winding down to help secure the Orange victory.
Fair is by far one of the leaders of Syracuse this season and looks to have a bright future ahead of him in the NBA.
1. Michael Carter-Williams
No Syracuse player is more exciting than point guard Michael Carter-Williams. He has shown big-play ability as well as a flair for the dramatic.
Take the Orange's 70-68 upset victory over Louisville for example. The sophomore made a season-high eight turnovers and did not play well in the first half. He turned it on in the second half, and ended the game by scoring 11 of Syracuse's final 13 points.
And of course, who could forget his spectacular steal and dunk to put the Orange up by one with 25 seconds remaining? He also iced the game with yet another steal with just seven seconds left in the contest.
Carter-Williams has made plenty of highlight-reel plays this season. From sweet passes and monster one-handed slams to timely steals and even an ally-oop, the kid has done it all.
He leads the nation in assists and is a key component to Syracuse's success this season. It's likely fans will only have this season to enjoy his talents in an Orange uniform, as Carter-Williams is projected to be a top-10 pick in the upcoming NBA draft by ESPN's Chad Forde.