In the Syracuse Orange's postseason last year, they were eliminated by the UMass Minutemen in the NIT quarterfinals.
Jim Boeheim brings this team into the season feeling as though they were snubbed by the tourney committee last year, but they weren't able to back it up with their play in the NIT.
Key returnees include sophomore guard Jonny Flynn (pictured above) and junior forward Paul Harris.
Arinze Onuaku averaged 12.7 points and 8.1 rebounds per game last year and also looks to be a big factor on both ends of the court. Kristof Ongenaet and Rick Jackson also look to contribute to the front court from the bench.
The Orange also get Eric Devendorf back, who is returning from an injury which held him out all of last year. Andy Rautins averaged 7.2 points per game two years ago and also returns this year from injury—adding much needed depth.
Someone will need to step up this season to fill the shoes of sweet-shooting forward Donte Greene, who jumped to the NBA after his first season at Syracuse. Greene led the team in points, rebounds, blocks, and three-pointers made—the Orange has big shoes to fill.
Freshmen will fight for minutes on a squad with a lot of depth.
6'6" forward Mookie Jones has a nice shot and the speed to drive it to the hoop. Montreal native, Kris Joseph, has the size of a forward, but the skills of a guard and can cause matchup problems for any defense.
Projected Starting Five
Jonny Flynn, Guard, 15.7 points per game
Eric Devendorf, Guard, 17.0 points per game
Paul Harris, Forward, 14.5 points per game
Kristof Ongenaet, Forward, 4.5 points per game
Arinze Onuaku, Forward, 12.7 points per game
Jonny Flynn will need to step up this season without Donte Greene around.
Last year, as a freshman, he was thrust into a leading role due to injuries to Eric Devendorf and Andy Rautins. He proved he can dish the ball, averaging 5.3 assists per game.
The sophomore will need to take over more of a leadership role this season. Flynn needs to cut down on his 2.7 turnovers per game from last season to remain effective.
Syracuse plays a very difficult schedule, as always, since they play in the very talented Big East conference.
The 'Cuse's season tips off at the O'Reilly Auto Parts CBE Classic on November 16.
On November 24, the Orange plays the Florida Gators, another team that missed the tourney last year and returns with something to prove. If Syracuse can win this game, it will be on the right track.
On December 20, the Orange play its premier non-conference game, traveling to the FedExForum in Memphis to play the Memphis Tigers.
The Tigers were the NCAA Champion runner-ups last season, but lost many of their star players. They did sign top recruit Tyreke Evans to replace some lost talent. If the Orange can get a win on the road at Memphis, we will know this team is poised to do some damage in March.
When their conference schedule starts, the going only gets tougher. In a one-week span starting January 14, they visit the Georgetown Hoyas, host the Notre Dame Irish, and travel to the playing home of the Pittsburgh Panthers—all perennial Big East powers.
On January 25, they host the Louisville Cardinals at the Carrier Dome. Louisville is one of the favorites this season, listed in most people's top three in the preseason.
No Big East matchup can be looked at as easy with Syracuse playing top-tier teams like the Villanova Wildcats, Marquette Golden Eagles, UConn Huskies, Cincinnati Bearcats, and West Virginia Mountaineers.
Even the Providence Friars can't be looked over this season, as they bring in their new coach, Keno Davis, who brought the Drake Bulldogs into the NCAA tournament as a No. 5 seed last year.
Syracuse plays a very hard schedule, but lucked out in the scheduling by only having to play Big East favorites UConn and Louisville once.
They are going to need to win some big conference games down the stretch and beat all of the teams that they are supposed to beat in non-conference play in order to be successful.
The Orange can't afford any bad losses if it wants to make the tournament this year. I expect that they will make it this year as Jonny Flynn and Eric Devendorf lead the 'Cuse to a bid.
Don't expect it to be easy though.