The Syracuse 2-3 zone has been a hallmark for coach Jim Boeheim and a headache for most coaches who face the Orange. However, aside from just being a suffocating defense, the zone has a wonderful byproduct.
Lots of them, in fact.
One of the trademarks of the Syracuse zone, due to the length of its players, is the surgical removal of passing lanes. Frustrated opponents often try to exploit perceived open lanes, only to see their passes tipped and transitioned into an easy bucket going the other way.
Whether it was Derrick Coleman throwing it down or Hakim Warrick trying to rip down the rim, Syracuse has always had someone who seemed angry at the rim. This upcoming season will be no exception.
With Brandon Triche, Michael Carter-Williams and James Southerland all bidding farewell to the ‘Cuse, the Orange game should move more inside and see more paint ownership than in the past few years of guard-dominated play.
That means more dunking.
With that in mind, it’s time to rank who the best dunkers will be for the Orange in the upcoming season.
Past performance, athleticism and ability to get to the rim were the deciding factors.
And now, the cream.
DaJuan Coleman won’t get any finesse points for his dunking style. However, what he lacks in polish, he makes up for in brute strength.
Coleman’s mass, at 288 pounds, creates an irresistible force that moves objects. When he has control of the paint, his dunking power can be demoralizing.
Granted, he hasn’t showcased his potential due to injury and a crowded lineup, but this could be a breakout year for the 6’9” sophomore.
Rakeem Christmas has all the power of DaJuan Coleman, but is a much more athletic forward, which is what places him at No. 3.
Last season, Christmas tended to disappear from games. However, with added need for scoring this season, he seems poised to take the opportunity to power the Syracuse post while Coleman clears the box.
When motivated, Christmas is a powerful, athletic dunker. When unmotivated, he’s barely noticeable on the court.
Look for this to be a boom-or-bust year for Christmas.
According to Mike Waters of the Syracuse Post-Standard, “The Orange has two of the best forwards in the Country.”
One being C.J. Fair, the other being Jerami Grant.
Grant showed his athletic prowess when filling in for a suspended James Southerland last season and rose to the occasion. He is lanky enough to get to the basket at odd angles and is athletic enough to sniff out rebounds and immediately attack.
There is excitement surrounding Grant’s upcoming sophomore season. If his play in Syracuse’s recent four-game exhibition trip to Canada is any indicator, then the team's second-best dunker will turn a lot of heads this year.
Even in high school, Grant could throw it down with professional accuracy as the video shows.
In C.J. Fair's first two seasons at Syracuse, he performed as a consistent scorer who could drop a mid-range shot and throw down thunderous dunks from anywhere on the court.
In his junior season, he expanded his game to become an excellent jump-shooter and was the most reliable scorer and all-around player on the Orange roster.
However, just because he became a better shooter didn't mean he forgot about dunking, as All-American first-teamer and Big East Player of the Year Otto Porter Jr. found out during the Big East tournament with two minutes remaining in overtime (see video).
Even going into last season, Fair was recognized as one of the best dunkers in the nation.
With a healthier, more experienced team around him, this year should be even better for the sensational senior.