Syracuse Basketball: Questions Fans Want Answered Before 2014-15 Season
After the 2013-14 season ended, the Syracuse basketball team was left with multiple questions.
Syracuse lost its three best players and a senior leader after the season, leaving the 2014-15 roster highly inexperienced.
C.J. Fair, Tyler Ennis and Jerami Grant are all headed for the NBA draft, creating a void in the backcourt and frontcourt that will be filled with young players. Who will pick up the scoring slack this year? And who will be the team's leader?
Head coach Jim Boeheim will have his work cut out for him keeping this team competitive in the tough ACC. Let's take a look at a few of the most burning questions fans want answered ahead of the Orange's second season in the ACC.
When Will DaJuan Coleman Be Healthy?
As of right now, it doesn't look like we will have an answer to this question until the offseason starts to give way to the preseason.
Jim Boeheim told ESPN's Andy Katz (via Chris Carlson of Syracuse.com) that Coleman's status will remain uncertain until August or September. Boeheim said Coleman is "working out now" but it is a "slow rehab process."
Coleman's sophomore season was cut short in January, the second straight year a leg injury has cost him a majority of the season. In the time since his injury, Coleman has dropped around 25 pounds using a juice diet, per Donna Ditota of Syracuse.com.
If Coleman is able to return sometime in 2014, he would provide a tremendous boost to the Orange front line. Aside from Rakeem Christmas, there is very little experience up front for Syracuse. Coleman would take some pressure off Christmas, and as he was showing before he went down, he can be dominant on the glass as well.
In addition, a frontcourt lineup of Christmas, Coleman and incoming freshman Chris McCullough would be a formidable defensive unit with length and athleticism on the wings and bulk in the middle.
If Coleman gets a clean bill of health, he would completely change the makeup of the Orange and give them some much-needed experience.
Who Will Start at Point Guard?
What we know is Syracuse will be starting its fourth point guard in four years. What we don't know is who that starter will be at the 1.
The two players competing to start will be Michael Gbinije and freshman Kaleb Joseph. Gbinije has spent the past two years as an understudy to Michael Carter-Williams and Tyler Ennis, backing them up and learning the position on the fly.
Jim Boeheim said, via Donna Ditota at Syracuse.com, that Gbinije "has figured out" the nuances of the position enough to compete for significant minutes.
However, Joseph is more of a pure point guard and has been playing the position since his sophomore year of high school. Per Ditota, Boeheim said Joseph "can make players better" and "can have the same impact as Tyler (Ennis) had."
Because of Joseph's experience with the position and his athleticism off the dribble, he will probably earn the starting job. That's not to take anything away from Gbinije, but his services will also be needed elsewhere.
Gbinije is also in the running for a starting spot at forward, depending on Coleman's health. But in recent years Boeheim has liked to have an impact player come off the bench. Gbinije can come in and play either guard or either forward spot, so Boeheim will likely keep him as a reserve.
However, Gbinije could have an impressive summer and take the starting gig from Joseph. Both players' progressions will be something to monitor as the season draws closer.
Will Rakeem Christmas Assume Leadership Role?
We already know Jim Boeheim is expecting a big year from Rakeem Christmas.
Boeheim told Syracuse.com's Mike Waters he believes Christmas can be the most improved player in the conference next year. As a (graduated) senior, Christmas will also be relied upon for leadership on and off the court.
But is Christmas up to the task? In his first three years, Christmas mostly operated in the background as other players took the spotlight. The 2014-15 iteration of the Orange will be lacking experience, however, so Christmas will assuredly see his role increase exponentially.
If Coleman isn't able to return right away, Christmas will be the only experienced center on the roster. He will no longer have Baye Keita to back him up if he has foul trouble. Because of that, Christmas will have to stay disciplined on defense and try to avoid picking up bad fouls.
And on offense, Christmas could become one of the main options on a team lacking in established scoring threats. Christmas did make significant improvements on offense in his junior year, connecting on 61.3 percent of his shots and 72.6 percent of his free throws.
If Christmas proves Boeheim right and makes a big jump, he can give the team the leader it is looking for.
Who Will Handle the Scoring?
This could be the most important question of all.
Syracuse lost three of its top four scorers after the season, and Trevor Cooney is the only returning player who averaged at least six points a game last year.
The name of the game is still to score, so the Orange will have to find new options to put the ball in the basket. Cooney dropped 12.1 points a game last year, but his three-point shooting feel off during the second half of the season.
Cooney will have to expand his offensive repertoire to increase his scoring output; the Orange are going to need it. Other than him, there's no telling who will step up and shoulder some of the scoring load.
This is a question that won't be answered until a few games into the season, but there is no doubt it is the most important story to monitor as the summer wears on.