College Basketball: Syracuse Orange Predictions with Futures Odds and Betting Picks
by Robert Ferringo - 11/12/2010
Last year was one for the ages for the pride of Upstate New York. The Syracuse Orange shrugged off the loss of several top players – mainly karmic debacles that took baggage and drama with them – and became one of the best teams in the nation. The season culminated with the Orange breaking their own record for attendance at a single game and devastating Villanova in a contest that paved the way to Syracuse becoming the No. 1 team in the land.
Syracuse didn’t win a national title but they did finish 30-5 on the season and won the Big East regular season title. They fielded one of the best teams in school history and were a symphony of success and teamwork all season long. The encore begins at 7 p.m. tonight at the Carrier Dome against Northern Iowa. And man, does this year’s team have a tough act to follow.
Syracuse University College Basketball Offseason Changes
The Orange again lost three starters from last year’s team. However, instead of the demon spawn that they discarded from the 2008-2009 season, which paved the way for SU’s renaissance, the Orange lost their unquestioned leader and their undoubted best player. Andy Rautins, Wes Johnson and underrated Arinze Onuaku have moved on and left three very noticeable and three very specific holes for this year’s club to fill. And how the 2010-11 Orange fill those spots will define what type of season they can produce.
Syracuse University Basketball Predictions: Outlook
Syracuse isn’t devoid of talent this year by any means. They begin the season ranked No. 10 in the AP poll and No. 13 in the EASPN poll. They bring back four of the top seven players from last year’s No. 1 seeded squad and they are among the favorites to win the Big East title.
Syracuse brings back two of its top three guards with Scoop Jardine expected to start to the point and last year’s starter, Brandon Triche, ready to start at the two-spot. Last year’s super-sub Kris Joseph will start at the swing position, with power forward Rick Jackson and freshman center Fab Melo rounding out the rotation.
The expectation is that Joseph will fill the shoes of the departed Johnson and Melo will pick up the slack of Onuaku’s departure. That right there is where I think that expectations are a bit unrealistic. Joseph is exceptional at getting to the basket and scoring. But he isn’t nearly the shooter or all-around threat that Johnson was. He is also not as athletic on the defensive end. So while I expect Joseph to have a good year I think that if anyone expects him to make a “leap” to superstar they are going to be disappointed. I just don’t think he has the all-around game to be among the league or the national elite. Not yet.
Melo is one of just several newcomers that the Orange will be counting on. He is a seven-foot Brazilian center that has only been playing basketball for a few years. That always worries me. And although I have heard he is very skilled and is considered one of the top three or four centers in this recruiting class, my expectations are that he is going to be a very raw project that will need a lot of work. He will likely be asked to fill in the center of SU’s vaunted 2-3 zone. And I think one of the critical issues this season will be whether or not he can stay out of the foul trouble that plagues so many freshmen starters in the sport.
Wing players Dion Waiters and C.J. Fair are also highly touted recruits and they will be expected to make an immediate impact off the bench. Waiters is supposed to be one of the top perimeter recruits on the East Coast. And from what I hear he has all of the tools to be an exceptional, all-conference level player. However, my sources have told me that he’s kind of a cocky jerk who thinks he’s a lot better than he is. Jim Boeheim has shown in the past that he can either let guys like that do their thing and infect the team with bad karma (see: Eric Devendorf, DeShawn Wiliams, etc.) or he can get under their skin and set down a my-way-or-the-highway situation that will either make or break a recruit’s career.
The development of Waiters and sophomore Mookie Jones, a 6-4 guard that played sporadically last year, is, in my opinion, one of the biggest themes of this season for the Orange. Syracuse simply has to find a way to replace Rautins’ scoring from 3-point range. Triche has a nice stroke. But Jardine and Joseph aren’t shooters. So if the Orange can’t hit from the outside then teams will be able to sag everything in the middle, double Jackson and Melo on the block, and cut off the lanes that Jardine and Joseph use to get to the rack.
In my opinion, Triche will be the key to this year’s team. He was a five-star talent out of high school before he blew out his knee. But last year he looked fully recovered, physically. And now with plenty of seasoning he should be ready to take the next step and become SU’s top perimeter scoring. But if he gets stuck in the dreaded sophomore slump (which has enveloped many big time players) then the Orange will be caught scrambling very quickly.
If Triche isn’t effective or takes a step back then that could create a vacuum that either Jones or Waiters will have to fill. I really don’t think anyone wants that. Also, something tells me that whoever of Jones or Waiters isn’t getting playing time is going to cause some drama behind the scenes. Again, Triche can help make that moot if he is effective, leaving it to Jimmy B. to sort out the drama behind the scenes. (I could be 100 percent wrong about Jones and Waiters. But call it a hunch.)
Further, Syracuse had but one weakness last year: they didn’t have a third big man behind Jackson (who I think is one of the most underrated power forwards in the nation and primed for a dominating senior campaign) and Onuaku. When Onuaku injured his leg in the Big East Tournament that sunk SU’s chances for a national title. That injury disrupted their defense, threw off their rotations, and really just disrupted a team that as playing at a high level.
Can they develop that third big man this season? DaShonte Riley has been lost for the year and the only other two big bodies that Syracuse has are 6-8 sophomore James Southerland (who is more of a large wing player) and 6-10 freshman project Baya Moussa Keita. Again, I sense that Melo is going to have foul trouble more often than SU would like this year. They absolutely have to have a big body that they can rely on for defense and rebounding.
Syracuse University College Basketball Futures Odds
The Orange are presently +500 to win the Big East title. That ranks them No. 3 in the conference behind Pittsburgh (+250) and Villanova (+250). Syracuse is also +2000 to win the national title. They are tied with several teams as the No. 7 favorite to cut down the nets.
Syracuse University College Basketball Picks and Predictions
This will be another strong year for the Orange, albeit not as successful as last year’s squad. The leadership and shooting of Rautins hasn’t been replaced and Wes Johnson was an All-American and No. 1 draft pick for a reason.
This season will be defined by the development of the underclassmen. If Triche, Jones, Melo and Fair can advance their game and avoid too many mistakes than this team could be in for a Sweet 16 run. If not, they could become a mess pretty quickly. I think that if I had to rank the keys to this season I would put them in this order:
1. Triche’s development.
2. The play of the freshmen.
3. The play of the big men.
4. Joseph and Scoop transitioning from role players to focal points.
The most likely scenario is that the Orange will finish in the top three or four in the Big East, make the semifinals of the Big East Tournament, and then lose in the second round of the Big Dance. They should win their 25 games and, by all accounts, have a successful but mildly unfulfilling season. They have some definitely meltdown potential if the leadership void isn’t filled. However, I have faith that Jardine and Jackson will step up this season and lead this team to another NCAA tournament berth.
And with another highly rated crop of recruits coming in next year the 2011-12 team could get them back among the truly elite in the nation sooner rather than later.
Robert Ferringo is a writer and a professional sports handicapper for Doc’s Sports. He is considered one of the best college basketball handicappers in the country and has earned his $100-per-Unit clients nearly $30,000 in the last four years with his nonconference handicapping. He has earned his clients over $16,000 since the end of July and is ready for another great college hoops season. You can sign up for his college basketball picks and get more information here.
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