In many ways, the Syracuse Orange (27-8 in 2010-11) has to consider this season a disappointment. After reaching 18-0 with a win over Cincinnati on January 15, the Orange hit a slump that saw it drop to 20-6.

Scoop JardineIn many ways, the Syracuse Orange (27-8 in 2010-11) has to consider this season a disappointment. After reaching 18-0 with a win over Cincinnati on January 15, the Orange hit a slump that saw it drop to 20-6. Ultimately, Syracuse would go 2-2 in the postseason, losing a tight contest to Big East foe Marquette in the Round of 32. 

Jim Boeheim’s program is a perennial Big East and NCAA Championship contender, and one can guarantee that the squad would like to atone for this season’s letdown. Let’s take a look at the Orange’s prospects for the 2011-12 campaign. 

Key Losses 

The Orange will lose the leadership of senior Rick Jackson (13.1 ppg, 10.3 rpg) next season. Jackson’s long arms and defensive presence were key components of Syracuse’s 2/3 zone over the past four seasons. His intangibles will be missed as much or more than his statistics. 

It is also likely that freshman guard Dion Waiters (6.6 ppg) will transfer. Boeheim’s current quote is that Waiters’ status is “up in the air.” After a solid start to the season, Waiters ended up in Boeheim’s doghouse after a confrontation between the two. 

Returning Backcourt 

Syracuse’s backcourt will remain intact next season with Scoop Jardine (12.5 ppg, 5.9 apg) and Brandon Triche (11.1 ppg, 2.9 apg) forming a potent combination. Jardine is the type of player who can win or lose a game for his team based on his shooting touch on a given night. He had some brilliant offensive games, but also some stinkers (see the NCAA Tournament loss to Marquette for an example). If he becomes more consistent as a senior, he could become one of the top point guards in the country. 

Triche was able to pick up the slack during many of Jardine’s poor-shooting games. He is a solid shooter with good range, but also suffers from inconsistency. If both guards are off, the ‘Cuse has very little shot at success.

Returning Frontcourt 

The offense will run through forward Kris Joseph (14.3 ppg, 5.2 rpg) in 2011. Joseph chose to return to Syracuse for his senior year rather than test the waters of the NBA Draft. His shooting range presents a problem for opposing defenders, as he raised his percentage to 37% behind the arc. 

The rest of the frontcourt is a work-in-progress. Freshman C.J. Fair (6.4 ppg, 3.8 rpg) probably exhibits the most talent and potential, with Mookie Jones, Fab Melo, and Baye Moussa Keita rounding out the rotation. These big men will need to develop for Syracuse to reach its potential. 

On the Recruiting Trail

Rakeem ChristmasFive-star McDonald’s All-American Rakeem Christmas (Academy of the New Church, PA) could fill an immediate need for the Orange at center. He is 6’9”, but plays larger than that due to an 88.5” wingspan. Christmas is described as a tenacious rebounder and defender with a developing offensive game. He could fit in the middle of the 2/3 very effectively. 

Boeheim also picked up five-star McDonald’s All-American Michael Carter-Williams (St. Andrew’s School, MA). Carter-Williams is described as an incredible shooter who will need to bulk up a bit to survive the physical Big East. He could contribute off the bench immediately next season when Syracuse’s starting guards are struggling with their shots. 

Syracuse’s third commitment is from ESPNU 100 shooting guard Trevor Cooney (Sanford High School, DE). Cooney’s shooting ability is unquestioned, but he does not have a great deal of natural athleticism. He could, however, provide quick offense off the bench as a true freshman. 

Outlook 

Syracuse should have a strong team next season under the leadership of Joseph and Jardine. I really like the backcourt of Jardine and Triche, particularly with help coming from Carter-Williams. The frontcourt is a question mark, but Boeheim has demonstrated the ability in the past to develop big men. I think Fair and Melo, particularly, will develop into Big East players next season and that Christmas will have an immediate impact. 

This is a deep club with a nice mixture of youth and senior leadership. NCAA Basketball odds makers and bettors will have to watch out for Syracuse in 2011-12.