Following last season's impressive postseason run, including the legendary six-overtime win against UConn in the Big East Tournament and a Sweet 16 finish, many had Syracuse at the top of their early 2009-2010 polls, with point guard Jonny Flynn at the helm.
However, Flynn would not remain an Orangeman for long, declaring for the draft and becoming the sixth overall pick by the Minnesota Timberwolves.
With Flynn's departure, along with junior shooting guard Eric Devendorf and junior forward Paul Harris' decisions to leave school early, many wrote the Orange off as contenders, and Syracuse began this season unranked.
Few thought that unheralded local recruit Brandon Triche and sophomore Scoop Jardine, who had just missed the entire season due to injury, could replace what bona fide fan favorite Flynn brought to the Orange during his two years.
While not nearly as flashy as Flynn and his legendary smile, the Triche-Jardine duo has been incredibly efficient for Syracuse, helping the Orange to a 12-0 record and a No. 5 ranking.
Early in his high school career at Syracuse-area Jamesville-DeWitt, Triche was a very highly touted prospect. A notable AAU performance saw him outplay top recruit and current Kentucky phenom point guard John Wall, to the point that Wall was visibly rattled after being put on the bench.
Unfortunately for Triche, a sophomore year ACL tear would take him off the national recruiting radar. At the end of his recruitment, he was only a three-star prospect by most recruiting databases and only the No. 142 recruit in the nation on Rivals.com, despite scoring over 20 points per game and leading his high school team to the state championship two years in a row.
While the scouting services might not have recognized Triche's talents, head coach Jim Boeheim saw enough out of the local star to name him the starter at point guard, over the veteran Jardine, before practices even began. Triche has not disappointed thus far.
In his first regular season college outing, the freshman had a nice eight-point, five-rebound, three-assist effort—about what Syracuse fans thought they could expect from the true freshman on a nightly basis.
However, against a very good Cornell squad in Syracuse's fifth game (on the heels of their impressive back-to-back defeats of California and North Carolina), Triche led the Orange to an 88-73 victory, leading the team with 21 points on 8-for-13 shooting from the field.
Triche would top that early career high just seven games later.
Against Oakland, Triche netted 27 points in only 20 minutes of play, shooting 6-for-6 from beyond the arc. The freshman also provided four rebounds and assists in the 92-60 win.
While Triche has started each game and proven to be a very solid passer with a 1.5 assist-to-turnover ratio, to go with his 11.5 points per game (second on the team behind Naismith Award contender Wesley Johnson), Scoop Jardine fills the role of distributor for the Orange.
Through 12 games, Jardine has played 15 more minutes than Triche, largely due to his impressive 2.64 assist-to-turnover ratio. The third-year sophomore spent all of last season recovering from injury but played valuable minutes during his freshman campaign on an injury-riddled Syracuse team. The ability to play with and practice against Jonny Flynn greatly aided Jardine's game.
Jardine may not possess a great jump shot, but he is one of the best on the team at getting to the rim and can score when he needs to. Against California at Madison Square Garden, Jardine led the team with 22 points and six assists in a 95-73 win.
While Syracuse fans may debate who the team's best point guard is, Boeheim sees no need to do so. Triche may start the game, but both play nearly even minutes (with the slight edge to Jardine), and he does not see Jardine as a reserve.
Both have very different games, and the combination of the two at the point guard is a dangerous asset to the team and provides great matchup problems for the Orange to exploit.
One of Syracuse's best attributes this season is phenomenal depth, and the ability to run out two of the Big East's best guards at the point is a tremendous advantage. Combined with the incredible chemistry that Syracuse has displayed thus far in this young season, the Triche-Jardine tandem should continue to be one of the best point guard situations in the nation.