Thursday, October 30, 2008

2008-2009 - What's in Store

The 2008-2009 season will be a very interesting season to watch play out. Coach Jim Boeheim has a killer schedule, an overabundance of talent at guard, and a team that could not close games last season.

Syracuse lost two players from last season’s team: leading scorer Donte’ Greene jumped to the NBA, and reserve guard Scoop Jardine will miss the season due to a stress fracture. But in return, Boeheim gets back two healthy junior guards in Eric Devendorf, perhaps the best player on the team, and sharp shooter Andy Rautins, the best shooter on the team. The Orange also get two highly rate freshman in Mookie Jones and Kris Joseph. That’s four talented guys joining the team.

More importantly, the rest of the team has aged and matured one more year, so Paul Harris is now a junior along with Arizne Onuaku. Kris Ongenaet is now a senior, and Jonny Flynn a sophomore. Syracuse went from a young team with no experience last year to a team with a lot of veteran players, particularly by today’s standards. When you have a senior, four juniors and a sophomore as your top six players, you have some experience.

Syracuse has a schedule that will test the mettle of the team. Eleven of Syracuse’s thirty one scheduled games are against pre-season top 25 teams; if they meet Kansas in the CBE Classic, that would be twelve games against top 25. Four of those games are against the #2, #3, #6 and #9 teams in the country. Six of those games are on the road, two are at neutral sites, and four are at home. They also play solid out of conference games against Richmond and Virginia. The schedule makers did not do Syracuse any favors.

Then they have the much talked about streak of 10 games from January 14th through February 22nd. That will cover 39 days in which Syracuse will play eight games against top 25 teams (four on the road, four at home). They’ll play four top 25 teams over a 12 day period to start that streak, and they’ll play four top 25 teams over the last 16 days to end that streak; they’ll face 4 top 10 teams in that same 39 game stretch. They get a ‘breather’, if you can call it that, with a road game at Providence, and a home game against West Virginia sandwiched in between.

Syracuse’s schedule breaks down this way. They have 13 out of conference games, three against top 25 teams, two against solid teams, and eight against teams they should beat. They have 18 conference games, with 9 against top 25 teams, and 9 against the rest of the league.

They cannot afford to lose any of the eight games they should win out-of-conference. Any losses there will negate any big wins elsewhere. Even with this difficult schedule, I think they need to win 20 games prior to the Big East tournament to lock in a bid. Anything less puts them on the bubble (other than a BET run), and we know how poorly that has turned out for Syracuse in recent years. If they can go 10-3 in the out-of-conference games (which means win one of the top 25 games, and one of the two against Richmond / Virginia), then they would need to go 10-8 in the Big East. To be taken serious in the post season, they’ll need to go at least 4-5 against the top 25 teams in the conference, giving, them the opportunity to go 6-3 against the rest of the conference. That would put the Orange at 20-11 going into the Big East tournament, with a 5-7 record against top 25 teams. That’s a lock for the NCAA.

A couple of big keys this year will be if Syracuse can win some of those top 25 games on the road; Memphis, Louisville, Notre Dame, Georgetown, Villanova and Pitt are all going to give them a chance. If Syracuse can win two of those games (and those teams don’t slump!), their resume will jump greatly come March.

The Orangemen can definitely do it. The big question hanging over this team, for me, is where the late game collapses last year more a function of the fatigue of the players, or a function of the mindset / caliber of the players on the court? If it was due to fatigue, then this year should be no problem. Boeheim is going to find it tough enough to find playing time for his trio of guards; rest won’t be a problem. If it was due to the mental makeup of the guys on the court last year, guys like Flynn and Harris, then it will be interesting. The advantage this year is that Devendorf and Rautins are around to step in, and we know they play with poise down the stretch.

All in all, it looks to be a very good year for the Orange. They likely won’t be going 25-6 in the regular season; but a 22-9 season would be outstanding for them, and 20-11 very good.

Let’s go Orange.

1 comment:

Russianator said...

I knew the schedule was going to be rough, but that is daunting....I'm punped for the year though. Let's go Orange.