Comeback Trail: 10 Things That Must Happen For Syracuse Orange to Be Ranked #1

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Comeback Trail: 10 Things That Must Happen For Syracuse Orange to Be Ranked #1
Christian Petersen/Getty Images

The Syracuse Orange made an improbable rise to the No. 1 ranking in the nation last season. They began the season unranked after losing their top three players in Jonny Flynn, Paul Harris and Eric Devendorf, all of whom declared for the NBA Draft (though only Flynn was actually selected).

But under the seasoned tutelage of coach Jim Boeheim and the combined leadership of Wesley Johnson and Andy Rautins, the Orange quickly returned to form and became one of the most dominant teams in the nation.

They were undefeated after 13 games and ranked fifth in the country. After 25 games they were 24-1 and ranked second in the country behind Kansas. By March 1 Kansas had suffered its second loss and Syracuse stood atop both polls with a 27-2 record.

The Orange struggled in the Big East tournament after a devastating injury to center Arinze Onuaku. They were still good enough to earn a No. 1 seed in the NCAA tournament, but only made it as far as the Sweet Sixteen before falling to eventual runner-up Butler.

It was a disappointing finish for Syracuse, which had legitimate championship aspirations for the first time since the 2003 season. After the season Johnson and Rautins, the two most important members of the team, both left for the NBA. Center Arinze Onuaku also graduated and took his talents elsewhere, leaving Boeheim with an inexperienced yet potentially explosive roster.

But can the team come together fast enough to make it back to No. 1?

Syracuse enters the 2010-11 season ranked 10th in the preseason AP Poll and 13th in the Coaches' Poll. There are several outstanding teams ranked above them, including defending champion Duke as the overall No. 1. But in college basketball anything is possible (like Division II LeMoyne College defeating Syracuse in the preseason).

So here are 10 things that Syracuse and Boeheim need to have happen for the Orange to return to the top of the college basketball world.

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