Syracuse Basketball: Biggest Challenges for Jim Boeheim in 2013-14
Two day later, Boeheim went back home to the Carmelo K. Anthony Basketball Center to give the hometown press its own media day.
Not known for his flashiness, Boeheim arrived in style as he stepped out of a New York taxi to kick off the event, which was followed by Orange Madness. During the celebration, fans were treated to two eight-minute halves of basketball which showed off Trevor Cooney’s range to the tune of five three-pointers and a dunk contest which was won by Michael Gbinije.
While this feels like the start to the season, Syracuse, ranked No. 7 in the preseason Coaches Poll, has already had a full three weeks of practice and played four exhibition games over the summer during a swing through Canada.
Syracuse will get two more tune-up games against Holy Family and Ryerson before opening the regular-season campaign against Cornell on November 8.
In the mean time, Jim Boeheim still has work to do to get his team ready for a new conference and another potential run at the Final Four. To accomplish this, he must find a way to get more out of his veterans and find a way to bring along his young talent quickly. If he succeeds at these tasks, there are only a few obstacles that stand between him and another successful campaign.
Here are some of Jim Boeheim’s biggest challenges for the upcoming season.
Inexperience at the Guard Spots
Peyton Siva defends Trevor Cooney
Jim Boeheim will be without 6’6” point guard Michael Carter-Williams—who left for the NBA lottery—and will instead go to bat with 6’2” Tyler Ennis.
Ennis is no slouch, so far, and is on the watch list for the Bob Cousy Award which is given to the nation’s best point guard. He is just a freshman and maturity and minutes will be expected early and often.
At the off-guard spot, Trevor Cooney will likely be the starter with Duke transfer Michael Gbinije backing up both players as needed.
Cooney is a good defender, but Ennis’ shorter wingspan (than Carter-Williams) will make Cooney’s job a tad tougher.
Last season, Carter-Williams and Brandon Triche were a formidable tandem at the top of the key. Ennis, Cooney and Gbinije have their work cut out for them, with not much game time between the three.
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Jim Boeheim has coached in some hostile environments and will continue to do so in the ACC.
In the Big East, Boeheim was afforded knowledge of opposing gyms, giving him, his staff and his players familiarity of court nuances such as sightlines.
With a new conference, there will be a learning curve in getting acclimated to his new road foes’ digs. Loud gyms, oddly-placed lights and dead areas of the court can all translate to Syracuse mistakes.
Jim Boeheim will need to get the most out of his preliminary scouting reports on his scheduled arena trips.
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While critics have often decried Syracuse’s pre-conference schedule over the years, there’s no denying that the Orange have played in one of the tougher, if not the toughest conference, over the last 30 years.
The conference schedule doesn’t get any easier in the new ACC, but there are a few disparities worth noting.
Six times this season Syracuse will play on either two or three days rest in conference. This starts with the conference opener on January 4 against Miami which is followed by a road trip to Virginia Tech three days later.
Three days is not that big a deal except when you consider that when Syracuse meets the Virginia Tech on two days' rest, the Hokies will not have played since December 31, giving them a week to prepare for the Orange.
Later in the season, as Syracuse winds down the ACC schedule, the Orange have a five-day span in which they play three games: Boston College (March 19), at Duke (March 22) and at Maryland (March 24).
Again, many teams play on limited rest, but when Syracuse meets Maryland for their third game in five days, Maryland will be coming off six days of rest.
No one will cry for Syracuse, but the schedule will test the team’s stamina.
New Styles of Play
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As I wrote earlier, a new conference means new arenas and new teams which also means new styles of play.
Jim Boeheim may feel safe, being that he has his own perplexing defensive style in the 2-3 zone, but that doesn’t mean his matchups will be cake walks.
Teams such as Duke will likely play an uptempo style against Syracuse to overcome their length and size. Additionally, what Duke lacks in size, it makes up for in athleticism and depth.
For decades, Jim Boeheim knew what he was going to get from opposing teams as he battled against his conference mates year after year.
Now, Boeheim must become a student, and furthermore, be a quick study.
Keeping Jerami Grant Healthy
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Jerami Grant made a quick name for himself last season by filling in for a suspended James Southerland and an injured DaJuan Coleman (knee).
Now, it seems that it is Jerami’s turn to feel the injury/illness bug.
Over the summer, Grant was forced to leave the USA U19 team due to a bout with Mononucleosis.
Then, Grant injured his right hand before the start of practices last month. He’s made his way back to practice, but is only now getting back into his normal form.
There’s not a lot Jim Boeheim can do to keep Grant healthy, but he is a very important part of the Syracuse puzzle. Anything Boeheim or his staff can do to ensure Grants health would be to the benefit of the team.