Basketball season in Syracuse has started back up, and expectations are higher than ever this season. Two exhibition games and an opener against Fordham are hardly a sample size for analyzing this talented team, but already there are a few things to be excited and worried about as the non-conference schedule moves on.
First and foremost, welcome back, Fab Melo. Last year's freshman bust would win a most improved player of the year award already if the NCAA offered it. The biggest difference according to Fab is that he is much lighter on his feet this year, and it is paying off. The question is how will Fab fare in the much more physical Big East once conference play starts.
Secondly, Dion Waiters looks like a legitimate spark for the Orange. The argument could be made that Syracuse has not had a great outside shooter since Andy Rautins graduated, and at times last year that hurt the team. Against Fordham, Waiters exploded for 14 points in just 22 minutes of play. With all of the controversy that surrounded him and coach Boeheim during the offseason, it it reassuring to see the effort Waiters puts on to the court.
Unfortunately for the Orange, Rick Jackson is missed. Rebounding was an issue in the exhibition matches, but it was corrected in the Fordham game. Keep an eye on this aspect of the Orange squad, as Rakeem Christmas (donning 25 because as he told me, "Every day is Christmas Day") and Fab try to replicate the beast that was Jackson. There should be no issues in these early games, but once again, Big East play is a whole different ball game, especially against teams like PItt that are seemingly coached by the football team.
Finally, injuries have not derailed any players as of yet, but there are a few to watch out for that may limit the action of stars like Kris Joseph and Baye Moussa Keita. While neither of these players seemed to have been slowed down much by these injuries, it will more than likely limit their play if things do not improve soon. This opens the door for other players who would otherwise be left out of Boeheim's tight rotation (looking at you, James Southerland) to step up their game.
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