Much like Connecticut, the last Big East team we covered in these previews here at Maddux Sports, Syracuse is going to be trying to compensate all year for the loss of a stud player. That player is of course Rick Jackson, who last season played a team high 35.9 minutes per game while leading the Big East in rebounding, blocked shots, and field goal percentage.
Syracuse 2012 NCAA Championship Odds on Bodog: 12/1
Coach Jim Boeheim realizes the indespensibility of the forward. “Ricky meant a lot to us last year, no question…We don’t have anyone on this team that is exactly like him, but we do have options.”
Those options include Rakeem Christmas, a 6’9″ 222 pound freshman from Bryn Athyn, Pennsylvania. Christmas is a good shot blocker, much like Jackson was, and he has the potential to be a game changing defensive player. His offensive game will need refining at the NCAA level, but the potential is certainly there. In addition to Christmas, 6’8″ C.J. Fair and 6’10” sophomore Baye Moussa Keita, as well as James Southerland, will fill the void, largely by committee. Expect all four forwards to play a role in compensating for Jackson’s void, though Christmas has the potential to be every bit as good as Jackson was. Fair needs to add some weight to be more effective, but he knows how to play the game of basketball, while Southerland will be able to stretch defenses with his three ball.
Kris Joseph promises to play a big role for the Orange. Last season, Joseph led the Orange in scoring and shot 36% from three. He had a minor operation on his knee that should improve his leaping ability and add some power back into his game. Boeheim says he thinks Joseph will have “a very good senior season.” Last year Joseph averaged 14.3 points per game, 5.2 rebounds per game, 2.2 assists per game, and played 32 minutes a night. He’ll get a chance to play those types of minutes again and will have to if the Orange are going to run deep in March.
Scoop Jardine and Brandon Triche will be counted upon heavily in the backcourt again. Jardine posted 12.5 points per game, and 5.9 assists per game while shooting 41.5% from the floor, while Triche put up 11.1 points per game and 2.9 assists per agme, while shooting 41.9% from the field. Jardine’s 5.9 assists were tops in the Big East and he wasn’t afraid to step up when the team needed him. Triche’s role changed from that of a pass first point guard into a scoring off guard. His shooting will likely be better this season, after another off year of hard work. Dion Waiters, Michael Carter-Williams, and Trevor Cooney round out the rotation in the backcourt. Carter-Williams is a McDonald’s All-American and will have a shot at big minutes right away.
As we said with Connecticut, there is a lot of talent here, too, and there are the pieces in place to replace a player of Jackson’s caliber. At first, things like that seem implausible, but as players realize their strengths and get used to playing with one another, this team can begin to take on its own identity. Kris Joseph has stuck around and provided the Orange with an experienced four year player who should be able to guide them through the trenches in March. Jardine and Triche will give Joseph the pieces along side himself to make this a very dangerous Orange team, and I wouldn’t be surprised to see them make a Final Four run.
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