C.J. Fair: Not a concern at all
Turnover in roster is the nature of the beast in college basketball. That beast will be bigger and stronger than usual for the Syracuse Orange in the 2013-14 season.
With the Final Four loss to Michigan, the Orange said goodbye to four-year starter Brandon Triche, shooter extraordinaire James Southerland and outstanding point guard Michael Carter-Williams.
The fall of 2013 brings an outstanding freshman class of point guard Tyler Ennis, shooting guard Ron Patterson, small forward B.J. Johnson, power forward Tyler Roberson and center Chinonso Obokoh. Duke transfer Mike Gbinije, a wing player, will finally get to play after sitting out 2012-13.
So what should keep Orange fans up at night? I would say the horrific pitching on my fantasy baseball team, but I'm guessing I'm the only one needing Ambien for that one.
While the future does look promising—a Top 10 preseason ranking is likely—here are a few things to worry about for next year.
The Orange need much more of this in 2013-14
There were games last season in which the Syracuse offense seemed to set the game back decades. Not only did they clank a lot of outside shots, but they couldn't score inside either. Not a good combination.
Last year's team got quite a bit of scoring from the backcourt, getting 13.6 points from Triche and 11.9 from Carter-Williams. The only returning guard, Trevor Cooney, only averaged 3.4 points and shot a paltry 26 percent from three-point range. And he's supposed to be a shooter.
Next year's starting backcourt will be Tyler Ennis at the point and Cooney at shooting guard. Ennis should prove to be more of a distributor than scorer, and Cooney certainly has yet to prove he can score on a regular basis.
Ron Patterson will come off the bench, and while he is hailed as a finisher and creator, he probably won't hit a lot of outside shots to deep defenses stretched out.
C.J. Fair was last year's leading scorer at 14.5 points per game and should score even more this year. The question is whether he will get adequate help from his frontcourt mates to allow him enough room to operate.
Rakeem Christmas will be the other forward and comes off a disappointing sophomore season in which he only scored 5.1 points per game. He needs to be more aggressive and use his size and athleticism.
Jerami Grant, Tyler Roberson, Mike Gbinije and B.J. Johnson will be the forwards off the bench. Grant is coming off a very nice freshman year and should get more minutes, shots and thus points. Roberson, Gbinije and Johnson are untested.
DaJuan Coleman should start at center with Baye Moussa Keita and Chinonso Obokoh on the bench. Coleman started most games last year, but only averaged 4.8 points. Keita and Obokoh are energetic defensive players who won't contribute much offensively.
MCW will be missed on defense
As much as Michael Carter-Williams will be missed on offense, he will be missed more on defense. Last year's Orange rode their outstanding defense all the way to the Final Four.
The biggest issue will be at the top of the zone. The Orange will lose four inches up top as 6'2" Tyler Ennis replaces 6'6" MCW. Not only does Ennis lack Carter-Williams' height, but also his experience and instincts in jumping passing lanes.
At shooting guard, Trevor Cooney may be the same 6'4" as Brandon Triche, but he is way, way behind in experience. Cooney also lacks the muscle of Triche, who excelled at fighting through screens.
So much of the Orange's defensive success next year will depend on DaJuan Coleman being able to do a much, much better job of handling the middle than he did during his freshman year. Coleman was clearly the best offensive center last year but lost playing time due to his inability to pick up the nuances of the zone to the liking of head man Jim Boeheim.
Rakeem Christmas should spend more time this year on the wing than he did last year. He will have to learn how to slide and adapt.
The new players up front—Roberson, Johnson and Gbinije—will take some time to learn the zone also.
Who will lead?
Teams are funny things. Their success depends on much more than just the sum of their collective talents.
Who will step up and replace the experience of Triche and Southerland?
There are two seniors on this team too. Is Fair vocal enough? Will Keita be on the court enough to lead?
The point guard will be freshman Tyler Ennis. Will he be able to drive the offense? Will the older players follow him? Believe in him?
The last image of the 2012-13 Orange season is of Trevor Cooney forcing a bad shot in the Final Four. For the first time all year, Cooney was forced to play point because both Michael Carter-Williams and Brandon Triche had fouled out of the game.
Last year's team did have two point guards in Carter-Williams and Triche. This year's team does not have that luxury.
The Orange need Tyler Ennis on the court. Badly. Trevor Cooney will have to be the backup, and he's certainly done nothing to make any of us feel very good about that.
Fair goes from supporting actor to lead
It's one thing to do well as part of a troupe. It's quite another to be the star.
C.J. Fair was one of the most unheralded players in the country last year. That's because Michael Carter-Williams wowed with his freakish game and was one of the country's leaders in both assists and steals.
James Southerland drew attention because of his ability at any time to make three-point shots as if they were layups.
Brandon Triche took pressure off Fair by being heady and making plays.
This coming season, the light will shine brightly on No. 5. How he handles it will go a long way in determining how far the Orange go.
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