5 Questions For Syracuse Basketball Offseason

By now, we’ve all had a week to get over the end of the 2013 Syracuse Orange basketball season, and now seems as appropriate a time as ever to start looking ahead towards the 2013-2014 season. Syracuse stands to lose three key players, as seniors Brandon Triche and James Southerland have run out of eligibility, and sophomore point guard Michael Carter-Williams has already declared for the NBA Draft. The Orange will hope to replace that trio with five incoming freshmen, as well as Duke transfer Michael Gbinije. With the departure of three key players there are a lot of holes on the roster and a lot of questions that need to be answered. Here are the five biggest questions to ponder during the offseason for Syracuse basketball that will go a long way toward determining how good they are next year:

1. Who will be the team leaders?

Believe it or not the eldest statesmen on the Orange next year will be C.J. Fair and Baye Moussa Keita. Fair will lead by example the way Triche did last year, but no one left on the team seems like the obvious choice to take over for Carter-Williams as the team’s vocal leader. Somebody needs to step up into the role of vocal leader, and it needs to be somebody that’s on the court and playing a major role on the team, and right now it’s tough to say who that player might be next season.

2. Will Michael Gbinije be able to shake off the rust?

We all saw how hard it was for Trevor Cooney to get going after redshirting a year, so it’s hard not have some trepidation for Gbinije. Not only did Gbinije have to sit out this past season, but he didn’t play a lot during his freshman year at Duke, so he’s gone almost two years without playing a lot of competitive basketball. With the starting backcourt gone, Gbinije will be expected to play a lot of minutes right away, and the Orange will need him to hit the ground running, take on a significant role, and not play like someone that’s spent the last two years on the bench.

3. Will Trevor Cooney be able to knock down shots?

Perimeter shooting was a big problem for Syracuse this year, and it could be even worse next year without Southerland around. Cooney had profound struggles shooting the ball during his redshirt freshman season, which was a major disappointment, as he came to Syracuse with the reputation as a great perimeter shooter. Having to sit out a year before getting a chance to play is a way to rationalize his struggles, but Cooney is now the most experienced player in Syracuse’s backcourt and there will be no more excuses for a lack of production. The Orange will need Cooney to make jump shots next year, but that’s not something we can assume heading into next year.

4. How will the center position play out?

After losing the entire starting backcourt, there will be more of a need for the frontcourt to step up its production next year, and that includes the center position, which was a constant source of disappointment on the offensive end this season. Keita is the best defensive center and was a revelation at the free throw line late in the season, but both DaJuan Coleman and Rakeem Christmas have more talent and potential at both ends of the court. Coleman could be an offensive force in the post, but if he’s not able to hold his own on the defensive end, he’s not going to play a lot of minutes. Christmas has shown few signs of breaking out during his first two seasons, but he has loads of talent and potential. It will be advantageous for Syracuse to have three centers that can play, but right now it’s impossible to predict how the minutes will be divided. It’s also important that either Coleman or Christmas be able to play minutes at power forward, but whether either one will be up to that challenge remains unclear as well.

5. Will Tyler Ennis be ready to be a starting point guard?

This could be the most important question for next season. Syracuse hasn’t started a freshman at point guard since Triche during the 2009-2010 season, but he had the benefit of a veteran behind him in Scoop Jardine, which took a lot of pressure off Triche. Ennis will not have that benefit, as he will be the only true point guard on the roster. He will also have big shoes to fill and no safety net, as he has to lead a team that always has high expectations. It’ll be a lot to ask of Ennis, but Syracuse has no other choice but to ask him to take on such a big role as a freshman, and we won’t know how he’ll handle it until the season begins.

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