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Orange Look to Avenge Snubbing From a Year Ago

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Last year ended in disappointment for the Syracuse Orange basketball team. The Orange were able to win 24 games, win a conference tournament game and they were the only team to beat Georgetown between February 1st and the Final Four. Yet the NCAA left the Orange out of their 65 team tournament, making Syracuse the first team from a major conference with more than 21 regular season wins and at least 10 conference wins to be denied a spot in the NCAA Tournament. Head Coach Jim Boeheim was outraged by this and let the media know it: “I have no way of knowing why we’re not in the tournament,” Boeheim told the Syracuse Post-Standard. “It’s beyond me.” Now Boeheim must lead a team that has lost three seniors to graduation, and one starter to a season-ending injury.

This year Syracuse fields a young team with a lot of promise but will have to deal with the loss of one of their key role players. Junior G Andy Rautins will miss the year after sustaining a season ending knee injury this summer while playing for team Canada at the FIBA Americas Tournament. Rautins will take a medical red shirt and return next year with two years of eligibility remaining. Rautins was the Orange’s best perimeter shooter and would have had a much needed veteran presence on this young team.
With Rautins out, Junior SG Eric Devendorf and Sophomore SF Paul Harris become the only two returning starters. Devendorf is coming off of a troubling year in which he struggled with personal issues. Devendorf’s best friend, Devell Washington, was shot outside a nightclub in Saginaw, Michigan near Devendorf’s home town of Bay City. After hearing this Devendorf went into a shell and his game on the court suffered. Washington was paralyzed from the shooting and was unable to talk to Devendorf because of a tube that had been inserted in his throat to help him breath. Devendorf was playing with no emotion and the shooting of his friend weighed heavily on him. He was averaging only 6.1 pts per game and was in a horrible shooting draught. At Christmas break Devendorf was able to visit Washington in the hospital and the visit seemed to ignite Devendorf as he returned to his old form. He scored at least 16 points in Syracuse’s first five games back and reached double figures in 19 of the Orange’s last 23 games. Devendorf plays a pivotal roll on this team and in order for the team to succeeded he needs to become a leader and help this team overcome its lack of experience.
The other returning starter, Paul Harris, now has a year of experience under his belt and looks to improve off of last year’s efforts. Harris was a highly touted recruit who many thought would be the top player on the Orange as a freshman and possibly leave for the NBA after one year. Harris did not meet these expectations but he was a solid contributor on a good Syracuse team. Harris did a tremendous job of rebounding last year as he averaged 7.1 rebounds per game despite his limited time as a reserve player early on in the season. One thing Harris struggled with was his shooting. Harris made only one three point shot out of twenty attempts and he struggled with his mid-range jumper throughout the year. Harris should benefit from a year of experience and an off season spent working on his shooting. This year look for Harris to have a breakout year and help lead this young team to the NCAA tournament.

With freshmen PG Johnny Flynn and PF Donte Greene, Syracuse has its first pair of McDonald’s All-Americans from the same year since Derrick Coleman and Stevie Thompson back in 1986. Flynn, who was a teammate of Harris’s at Niagara Falls HS, is an undersized point guard who should become an immediate starter with the injury to Rautins. Flynn possesses great shooting skills and is known for being a playmaker that does a great job of distributing the ball. Not only is Flynn known for his offensive skills but he is also praised for his work on defense. Flynn is the complete player the Orange need at PG and if he is able to put together a good year then Syracuse could find themselves with a higher seed in the NCAA tournament.

The other freshmen expected to start is PF Donte Greene, who attended the same Baltimore high school as former Syracuse star Carmelo Anthony. Greene is a slim PF who is just oozing with potential. Greene will be a predominantly offensive player this year as his outside shot is his most effective weapon but his lack of strength will be exposed by the big men of the Big East on defense. Greene is an all around tremendous athlete who should develop into a tremendous player with more experience and more time in the weight room. Greene should be one of Syracuse’s top contributors on offense but as the year progresses and coach Boeheim has more time with him expect to see an improvement on the young forwards defense.

Sophomore C Arinze Onuaku looks to complete the Orange’s young starting lineup. Onuaku missed last year due to a preseason knee injury but returned at the end of the year and was an impressive force on the boards. Freshmen C Rick Jackson figures to split time with Onuaku but look for Onuaku to get the nod as a starter because of his advantage in experience. With Jackson and Onuaku, Syracuse has two solid centers that can contribute. The main thing that the centers must avoid is foul trouble as Onuaku had some foul trouble after returning last year and Jackson, being a freshman, may need some time to adjust to the college level play.

Syracuse also has some solid option off the bench. Expect freshmen G Antonio “Swoop” Jardine to play a key role off the bench as Jim Boeheim has hinted that the frosh should see his fair share of touches this year. Jardine is a complete guard who has the speed to get up court and the strength to work the ball in down low. Junior G Anthony Wright, a starter at the beginning of last year, will also see some time but he needs to improve on his game from last year in order to become a solid contributor.

Syracuse has a strong starting lineup this year but when you start two freshmen and two sophomores you’re always going to have some uncertainties. Syracuse has all the talent needed to go deep in the NCAA Tournament but with their limited leadership and experience it becomes a question of how they will actually fair. Syracuse has all the weapons needed to win on offense, but defense is a major question. It may take a while for this young team to develop a defense so look for their best play to come later on in the year, after the team gains more experience. This is a solid Syracuse team that will get better with time and don’t be surprised if you see them playing in the NCAA Tournament at the end of the year.





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