So here we are, still about a week away the Final Four. A lot of great basketball has been played the last two weeks, and there are surely some more memorable moments to come.
It’s great matchups like this year’s that make Championship Weekend so exciting, and no doubt there are myriad fans out there who are sad to see the season end. However, if you are like me, a die-hard Orange supporter who bleeds blue and orange, last weekend’s game against Oklahoma was just too much to bear.
Forget about Detroit. We’re waiting for next season already.
Of course it is vastly premature to start looking ahead to next season, as much can change between now and next fall. Jonny Flynn says he is coming back, but every fan of any team with NBA prospects has heard that refrain too many times to invest much faith in it.
Boeheim always brings in top-flight recruits, but who knows which ones will develop or which ones will end up in the doghouse. Injuries can happen during the summer, a la Andy Rautins blowing out his knee while playing with Team Canada.
However, if all of the pieces fall in the right places, which with the talent already on board and the talent slated to arrive is not a stretch by any means, then the Orange could find themselves cutting down the nets for the second time this decade.
First off all, the Orange is not losing much. Only one senior, Kristof Ongenaet, is graduating and though his hustle and energy will be missed, losing his three points and five boards game isn’t making anyone in Orange Nation lose sleep.
What is making Cuse fans across the nation toss and turn though, is the future of Flynn. Though he has declared publicly twice now that he will return for his junior year, both of those came during the team’s incredible run through the Big East Tournament to the Sweet 16.
When asked after the Oklahoma game, he seemed less committal, stating that right now, all he could say was that he enjoys attending school and playing basketball at Syracuse University. Not exactly a ringing endorsement for a player who has skyrocketed up draft boards everywhere with his phenomenal play at the end of the year.
But if he does come back, one can only expect him to be better, as he has steadily improved with every game throughout his career to this point. Judging by the way he has played, it is scary to imagine what getting better actually entails for Flynn.
He will undoubtedly be on the preseason All-Big East Team, and perhaps even the preseason All-America Team. Sure, he can go in the top 20 right now, but after next year, he could be a top 10 pick.
Next, you have Devendorf coming back, and though he has probably reached his peak as a college player, that still means you get 17-19 ppg and one of the best clutch shooters in the nation.
Rautins will join him in the back court, providing an instant jolt of offense off the bench, stretching defenses and playing sound defense. Also, don’t forget that Scoop Jardine, who showed the potential to be a streaky shooter off the bench as a freshman before taking a medical redshirt last year, will be coming back.
At the wing, Paul Harris, a nightly double-double threat, will be returning, joined by sophomores-to-be Kris Joseph and Mookie Jones. Joseph showed promise in limited action last year, getting decent minutes before disappearing from the rotation during conference play.
Jones sat the year out with an injury, so he is an unknown commodity. James Southerland, a 2008 signee who did not qualify academically last year, will join the team, bringing a beautiful deep stroke and a sturdy 6’7’’ frame.
The bigs should contribute more next year, with Arinze Onuaku anchoring the back of the 2-3 zone and using his imposing 275-pound body to bully his way to the rim at the other end.
Rick Jackson showed flashes of brilliance last year, displaying a soft touch and great athleticism to go along with great size and hands. He improved greatly over his freshman season and I think that he has the potential to be a breakout star for the Orange, possibly being one of the best big men in the conference.
The incoming players also bring a lot to get excited about, with two top 100 recruits and one big-time transfer making their way to Syracuse next season. At 6’3’’, guard Brandon Triche—nephew of former Syracuse star Howard Triche—boasts a good outside shot and solid ball handling, and will add depth to any already crowded backcourt.
Boeheim also scored a coup with DaShonte Riley, a 6’11’’ center who decommitted from Georgetown and picked the Orange over Marquette, Cal, and LSU the second time around.
Riley is scary thin, but he brings a ton of skill to the table, with a reliable 15-footer and deft ball handling. If he fills out, Riley could be an NBA prospect and will certainly bolster a thin frontline.
Though the two freshmen are garnering attention, the addition of 6’7’’ Iowa State transfer Wesley Johnson is creating the most buzz of any new addition. Johnson received an honorable mention for the freshman All-America team and averaged 12 points and eight boards a game.
Combining jaw-dropping athleticism and a fantastic all-around game, Johnson has a chance to be a first-round draft choice and could put the Orange over the top.
Though there is a lot of time left for things to change, there is just too much talent in all the right places not to start getting excited. The team will feature a backcourt with three players who can go off for 20 on any given night, high scoring wings, and tough rebounding bigs.
They will be able to run and gun and they will be able to play the half-court. The zone will have incredible length in the back and pesky, ball-hawking defenders manning the top.
I don’t know about you, but I know just typing that gets me excited.