Editor's Note: The BIG EAST will be previewing both the men's and women's team from each BIG EAST member each weekday from October 22 to November 9 in advance of the 2012-13 season. Use hashtag #BECountdown to join the conversation on Twitter.
Syracuse Orange Men's Basketball
The Big Picture:
Last season, the Orange rolled up a 34-3 mark, the best record and most wins in school history. They won the BIG EAST regular-season crown with a 17-1 record and stayed in the top five in the national polls every week of the season. The season ended with a loss to Ohio State in the East Region final. Coach Jim Boeheim recorded his 32nd 20-win season, the most in college basketball history under one coach. For 2012-13, SYR will have to find replacements for four outstanding players, forward Kris Joseph, guards Dion Waiters and Scoop Jardine and center Fab Melo. Still, most college basketball observers see another outstanding season ahead.
Dependable guard Brandon Triche returns for his senior year. A starter throughout his career, he averaged 9.4 points last season. Forward C.J. Fair started only nine games last year, but figures to earn starting duty this season. He played starter’s minutes last season and emerged as an athletic forward who averaged 8.5 points and 5.4 boards. James Southerland came on strong late in the season. The forward averaged 6.8 points and became a formidable 3-point threat. Rakeem Christmas was a starter as a freshman, though he averaged only 11.5 minutes. He averaged 2.8 points and 2.9 rebounds while showing to be a strong athletic presence near the basket. Baye Keita (2.3, 2.5) played similar minutes to Christmas and showed similar athletic duty, excelling on the defensive end. Guard Michael Carter-Williams (2.7) had trouble wedging himself into the guard rotation as a freshman, but showed exciting promise. Trevor Cooney, a promising shooting guard, was redshirted.
Joseph was an All-BIG EAST Second Team pick after averaging a team-high 13.4 points. Waiters scored at a 12.6 clip, made All-BIG EAST Third Team and was chosen BIG EAST Sixth Man of the Year. Melo was selected BIG EAST Defensive Player of the Year. He blocked 2.9 shots per game. Jardine averaged 8.9 points and a team-leading 4.9 assists.
With four quality players lost from last year’s squad, prognosticators will not predict another 34-3 season, but the Orange will still be counted on for another stellar run. Some top reserves appear ready to accept larger roles this season. Triche will be the steadying influence in the backcourt. Two freshman forwards, DaJuan Coleman and Jerami Grant will press for immediate playing time near the basket. Grant, the brother of Notre Dame’s Jerian Grant, might be another athletic wing in a long line of Syracuse players at the small forward spot. He played this summer on the USA Basketball U18 Team. The Orange won with balance last year. Joseph’s team-high scoring average was only 20th in the BIG EAST.