Before last season began, there were little expectations for Syracuse basketball. Picked to finish sixth in the 16-team Big East, nothing more than average was expected out of the Orange. And for good reason. The team lost Johnny Flynn, Paul Harris and Eric Devendorf, arguably their top three players from the previous season. No one expected much other than a somewhat above-average finish. Apparently, no one told that to Wes Johnson, Arinze Onuaku, Andy Rautins and the rest of the 2009-2010 team.
SU ended up winning their first 13 games en route to a number one ranking in March followed by a number one seed in the NCAA tournament. Despite the team's heartbreaking Sweet 16 loss to Butler, this team will still be remembered as being extra special for their success, excitement and joy of the game. Not to mention one of the best seasons ever.
Which brings us to this year. Once again, the Orange are losing a trio of players--a trio perhaps better than last season's. Wes Johnson will be a lottery pick, while Arinze and Andy have shots to play some sort of professional basketball. The team will not only be missing their talent, but their chemistry and infusion of life and passion into the game.
However, there is no reason to doubt SU once again.
Despite losing those three, the team has Rick Jackson returning, along with fellow future NBA player Kris Joseph (pictured). Scoop Jardine and Brandon Triche will be back. Those are four experienced and talented players. And don't forget Da'Shonte Riley, Mookie Jones and James Southerland. And, on top of all of that, one of the top recruiting classes will be donning Orange.Fab Melo and Dion Waiters are in the top 20 overall, and CJ Fair and Baye Moussa Keita are not far behind.
People are already doubting the Orange for next season. I have to admit, the loss of Johnson, Rautins and Onuaku is huge, and the team probably won't be as good without their leadership and skills. But trust me, this team will be a team you don't want to face. Led by Jim Boeheim, the 2010-2011 Orange are ready to surprise you. Again.