Syracuse Basketball: 5 Biggest Things to Look Forward to in 2014-15

Justin Neuman@@JustinNeuman10Contributor IIApril 10, 2014

Syracuse Basketball: 5 Biggest Things to Look Forward to in 2014-15

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    With the college basketball season in the rear-view mirror, fans are starting to look ahead to 2014-15.

    Syracuse fans are no different. As of this writing, there is still no word whether Jerami Grant is headed to the NBA.

    Other than Grant, there are several players returning who will see their roles increase significantly. Not to mention the two Top-50 recruits who will arrive in the fall.

    So what are Orange fans looking forward to most? Which players will step up and become contributors? We'll look at those questions and more in the coming slides.

The Freshman Class

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    Syracuse's 2014 freshman class includes two Top-50 recruits on ESPN's Top 100. They are Chris McCullough, a 6'10" forward, and Kaleb Joseph, a 6'3" guard.

    With Tyler Ennis off to the NBA, it is likely that Joseph will become Jim Boeheim's fourth starting point guard in as many years. McCullough's role is less clear, but he's certainly talented enough to make an impact.

    Just how big an impact each player makes is the question. Joseph will have big shoes to fill, but so did Ennis when arrived on campus.

    McCullough's playing time could be dependent on how quickly DaJuan Coleman returns from his knee injury. McCullough will likely see time at forward and center, depending on how quickly he learns the defense.

    With C.J. Fair and Ennis gone, the Orange will need to look elsewhere to find scoring. These two talented recruits will likely help with that, and just how much they can contribute is something to keep an eye on.

How the Returning Players Grow

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    Even though he got most of the attention, Ennis wasn't the only member of this past-year's freshman class.

    They didn't see much playing time, but Tyler Roberson, Ron Patterson, B.J. Johnson and Chinonso Obokoh all spent a year in Boeheim's system. Obokoh redshirted, so he didn't play at all.

    With two highly-talented players moving on, all of these players will see their roles increase greatly. Roberson might even find himself in the starting lineup depending on what happens with Grant.

    Patterson showed he can shoot a little bit, making six of the 19 threes he attempted on the year. At 6'2" and 200 pounds, he also has the size and displayed the quickness to be disruptive at the top of the zone. Johnson didn't perform as well when he got in the game, but if he adds some muscle he can be another athletic forward to use as a reserve.

    Obokoh is in a strange situation. Donna Ditota of reported Wednesday that the NCAA is taking away a year of Obokoh's eligibility because of how he classified in high school when he came from Nigeria. So as of now, he will still be a sophomore next year even though he redshirted.

    Ditota said the university will look to appeal the NCAA's decision. Orange fans will be looking forward to a resolution to that situation as well as how these players progress.

What Rakeem Christmas Does in His Senior Year

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    The curious case of Rakeem Christmas.

    Syracuse fans have been trying to figure the big man out since he arrived in Syracuse. Sometimes he looks dominant, other times it seems like he mentally checks out.

    But in 2014-15, Christmas will be The Man in the middle for the Orange. He will not have Baye Keita to rely on if he gets into foul trouble. And if Coleman isn't ready right away, Christmas will have two players behind him in Obokoh and McCullough who have played a combined zero minutes of college hoops.

    Therefore, Christmas will likely be the key to how the Orange fare next year. If he can stay on the floor, he can affect games on both ends with his athleticism and shot-blocking ability. If he gets in foul trouble, the defense will be under a lot of pressure with inexperienced players in there.

    As a senior, Christmas will also be looked to as a leader. It will be interesting to see if Christmas embraces this role and how he plays as the main option at center.



Furthering Rivalries

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    It's pretty safe to say the two Syracuse/Duke games were two of the biggest regular-season games of the year.

    They played in front of a record crowd and went to overtime in the Carrier Dome. And when the two teams ran it back in Durham, the ending was just as exciting.

    It's not certain whether the two programs will play twice again next year, but even if they only meet once, all eyes will be on the matchup.

    After just two games, Syracuse and Duke already have a rivalry. But Duke isn't the only team building a rivalry with the Orange. Syracuse will likely be looking to avenge its loss to Boston College, which was its first of the season.

    In addition, Syracuse will be looking to get back at N.C. State for knocking the Orange out of the ACC tournament. And since North Carolina came to the Dome this past year, the Orange will likely make their first trip to Chapel Hill in 2014-15.

    And lest we forget, Louisville will join the ACC next year. The two schools are old rivals from their Big East days, and it will give us (hopefully) another opportunity to see Rick Pitino don the Colonel Sanders suit.

The 2K Sports Classic

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    In the upcoming season, the Orange will once again be participating in a preseason tournament.

    But this time, they won't have to travel all the way to Maui. Instead, the team will be playing at its second home, Madison Square Garden, for the 2K Sports Classic, which benefits the Wounded Warrior Project.

    Syracuse will join Texas, California and Iowa as the host teams for the tournament. Should the Orange face California, it would be a rematch of the game the two teams played in Maui in 2013.

    Since Syracuse no longer plays in the Big East Tournament, the 2K Classic will be a good opportunity for fans to see the Orange play at the Garden. The crowds during the Big East Tournament were always decidedly pro-Orange, so there's reason to expect Syracuse will enjoy a home-court advantage again.

    And for what it's worth, the winner of last year's 2K Classic, UConn, just won the national title. So there's that.

    But we can't get too far ahead of ourselves just yet. For now, we'll just look forward to more Syracuse basketball in the Garden and another eventful season in the ACC.