Syracuse Basketball: 7 Reasons Why the Orange Should Be Big East Favorites

Brandon ReiterCorrespondent IIOctober 16, 2011

Syracuse Basketball: 7 Reasons Why the Orange Should Be Big East Favorites

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    After a disappointing eight-loss season last year, Syracuse has what it takes to solidify its position at the top of college basketball's premier conference.

    Despite the loss of Rick Jackson, Syracuse has had a great offseason, recruiting 6'9" center Rakeem Christmas and 6'5" shooting guard Michael Carter-Williams.

    With the experience of the returners, the new recruits should slide into a successful 2011-12 Orange team.

Experience

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    With Rick Jackson the only senior on the roster last year, Syracuse is returning almost all of its 2010-11 team.

    Syracuse had a strong incoming freshman class last year with Dion Waiters, CJ Fair, Baye Mussa-Kieta, and Fab Melo.

    With a year of experience under their belts, these sophomores will be much improved from last year, especially Fab Melo. He was a disappointment for most of his freshman year.

    The senior leadership and skill play of Scoop Jardine and Kris Joseph just tack on to the benefits of the large amount of returning Orange.

    Lastly, the Orange have great role-playing juniors returning: Brandon Triche and James Southerland. 

Incoming Freshmen

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    Yes, Rick Jackson may have left, but the Orange have recruited his replacement by picking up the No. 2 center in the ESPN 100, Rakeem Christmas.

    'Cuse has also picked up two new shooting guards, Michael Carter-Williams and Trevor Cooney, who will add to the depth in the backcourt.

    Last year's freshmen were extremely helpful in providing sparks for the Orange down the stretch.

    This year's freshmen have even more hype than last year's. If the freshman do what they are supposed to do, we are looking at a strong Orange team.

Front Court Height

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    Rick Jackson was a strong force in the Orange front court at 6'9", but luckily the Orange were able to recruit Rakeem Christmas, another 6'9" center.

    Christmas will be worked into the front court along with Fab Melo (7') and Baye Moussa Keita (6'10").

    With such a tall front court, the Orange's rebounding will be a great strength, especially if Fab Melo's play has improved over the offseason.

Backcourt Skill

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    With Scoop Jardine and Brandon Triche returning with their knowledge and experience, their already established talent should guide the Orange to a successful season.

    Also, Dion Waiters established himself as one of the most talented freshman in the Big East, averaging 6.6 points per game in only 16.3 minutes per game.

    With more playing time this year, he will be an offensive spark for the Orange down the stretch.

    Lastly, the Orange picked up two new shooting guards, Michael Carter-Williams and Trevor Cooney.

    They are ranked No. 4 and No. 17 at the position, respectively.

Depth

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    The Orange had four players average above 11 points per game last year. They did not have a player average more than 33 minutes, other than Rick Jackson.

    The Orange had a 10-man rotation last year with 10 regular contributors.

    With Rick Jackson being the only player to leave, the additions of Christmas and Carter-Williams will add to the depth that exists on the Syracuse bench.

    Energy is key to have down the stretch.

    The Orange saw this in 2009 when Johnny Flynn simply ran out of gas by the Sweet 16. He was a great point guard that simply needed more help from the bench to carry the team.

    With a deep bench, the Orange will have the fuel to last long in both the Big East and the NCAA tournament. 

Opponents

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    The Orange have no extraordinary blows to their lineup due to graduation, the NBA, or other reasons.

    Other Big East teams have not had this luxury this offseason.

    Of course, Kemba Walker now plays for the Bobcats after leading UConn to the championship.

    Louisville lost leading-scorer Preston Knowles, despite a successful offseason.

    St. John's will be starting with almost an entirely new lineup.

    Gilbert Brown, Gary McGee, and Brad Wannamaker all left Pitt, leaving Ashton Gibbs to carry the Panthers. 

Coaching

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    With 800 wins under his belt already, Jim Boeheim knows what it takes to win.

    After learning from the mistakes of the recent seasons, Jim Boeheim knows how to make ends meet.

    He will find the way to develop Fab Melo to be a premier center, as well as work in the new, talented freshmen with the experienced players.

    Boeheim has been here before, and he has won it before. If there is anyone to trust to lead a team loaded with talent, Jim Boeheim is the man to go to.