September 15, 2008


Head coach: Jim Boeheim
Last season: 21-14, 9-9 in Big East.
Postseason: Earned at-large bid to NIT. Lost to UMass in quarterfinals, 81-77.
Breakdown: Probable starters | Backcourt | Frontcourt | Offense | Defense | Outlook

BACKCOURT

Jonny Flynn showed why he was a Rivals.com five-star prospect, stepping into the role as the starting point guard for the Orange from Day One and delivering 15.7 points and 5.3 assists per game. He started all 35 games and averaged a whopping 35.5 minutes, with Syracuse depleted in the backcourt by injuries to Eric Devendorf and Andy Rautins. Flynn shot the ball well (45.9 percent overall; 34.8 percent from 3-point range), and he handled himself just fine on the defensive end. His decision-making was solid most of the time, but he could stand to cut down on his 95 turnovers.

Paul Harris ranked among the top 20 in the Big East in scoring, rebounding and assists.

PROBABLE STARTING FIVE
G Jonny Flynn, 6-0/So.
15.7 ppg, 5.3 apg
G Eric Devendorf, 6-4/Jr.
17.0 ppg, 3.9 apg
F Kris Ongenaet, 6-8/Sr.
4.5 ppg, 4.5 rpg
F Arinze Onuaku, 6-9/Jr.
12.7 ppg, 8.1 rpg
F Paul Harris, 6-5/Jr.
14.5 ppg, 8.2 rpg, 3.3 apg
TOP RESERVES
G Andy Rautins, 6-5/Jr.
7.2 ppg, 67 3-pointers in 2006-07
G Scoop Jardine, 6-1/So.
5.5 ppg, 2.5 apg
F Rick Jackson, 6-9/So.
3.7 ppg, 3.0 rpg
Devendorf started the first 10 games before suffering a torn ACL against East Tennessee State. He was off to an excellent start, averaging 17 ppg and shooting better than 40 percent from 3-point range. He had scored at least 12 points in all 10 games, and he looked poise to knock down in the neighborhood of 80 3-pointers if he had stayed healthy. Devendorf was a major beneficiary of Flynn's creative and unselfish play, and he should be ready to go when practice starts Oct. 17.

Rautins missed all of last season when he tore his ACL in the FIBA Americas Championship while playing for Team Canada. But he rehabbed hard, added weight and muscle and came back to play for Team Canada this past summer, so he'll be ready to go for the Orange. As a sophomore he hit 67 3-pointers. He figures to have ample opportunity to improve on that total with Flynn and Devendorf setting him up. He also can spell Flynn at point guard.

Depth in the backcourt also is provided by Scoop Jardine. The former four-star prospect got increased playing time because of others' injuries and made 10 starts. He contributed heavily down the stretch, averaging 10.3 ppg in the postseason.

FRONTCOURT

Paul Harris is a triple-double waiting to happen. The 6-5, 228-pound forward is one of the most physical players in a physical league. He was the only player in the Big East to rank in the top 20 in scoring, rebounding and assists. Harris started all 35 games and averaged a team-high 36.1 mpg. He also led the Orange in steals (59). Harris never takes a play off and works relentlessly on both ends of the floor. When a ball comes off the rim it's either going to be his or someone is going to go through quite a battle.

Arinze Onuaku had a breakout year after redshirting in 2006-07 following knee surgery. He led the Orange and was second in the conference in field-goal percentage (62.8 percent). His presence in the low post created room for Flynn and Co. on the perimeter, and Onuaku teamed with Harris to form a formidable rebounding duo. In fact, the Orange ranked second in the Big East in rebounding margin. If Onuaku continues to improve at such a rapid pace, Syracuse will be a serious threat to the powers-that-be in the Big East.

Kris Ongenaet probably is the other starter up front. Ongenaet is a Belgian native who made 15 starts last season after transferring from junior college. He's a solid role player who knows when to take a shot: He averaged 8.2 ppg and converted at a 69.2-percent clip once the calendar turned to March.

Rick Jackson will contribute significant minutes off the bench. He's a great leaper and a defensive force. He blocked a whopping 44 shots, third on the team, despite averaging just 12.9 mpg.

OFFENSE

The Orange transitioned nicely to more of an up-tempo team last season, averaging 79 ppg (second in the Big East and 21st nationally). Flynn plays at a fast pace, and he's surrounded by a cast that can get up and down as well. The outside shooting will be improved with the return of Devendorf and Rautins. The whole group needs to take better care of the ball; no team in the Big East had more turnovers per game (15.9) than Syracuse.

DEFENSE

In any other year in the Big East this would be a team contending for a league title. But in the strongest league in the country it will have to play well just to finish in the upper division. The loss of Donte Greene is significant, but with the return of Devendorf and Rautins this should be a deeper team. The coaches made the right move to be more up-tempo offensively, and this group again should be a high-scoring bunch. Now the Orange has to solve the defensive woes. There is too much talent and athleticism for this team to rank 14th in the Big East in scoring defense. Youth was a factor a year ago when Syracuse started three freshmen and two sophomores for most of the season. Jim Boeheim is entering his 33rd season as coach of the Orange. During that time he never has gone more than two years without making the NCAA Tournament. He and Orange Nation will be sweating it again come Selection Sunday, but something tells us this time it will go Syracuse's way.
Jim Boeheim still employs the 2-3 zone, but teams solved it last season with relative ease. The Orange surrendered 74.3 ppg to rank 14th in the Big East.

SHOES TO FILL

F Donte Greene. The silky smooth 6-9 Greene joined the ranks of the one-and-dones. The former five-star prospect led Syracuse in scoring (17.7 ppg) and blocks (57) and averaged 7.2 rebounds. That's a lot of production that will be missing this season.

MUST STEP UP

The bench. The Orange had five players average more than 30 minutes per game last season. That makes for a group that's tired at the end of games and at the end of the season. It probably goes a long way toward explaining why Syracuse committed more turnovers than any Big East team.

IMPACT NEWCOMER

F Mookie Jones. The New York native is a four-star prospect ranked by Rivals.com as the No. 6 small forward in the class and No. 35 overall. He's an athletic all-court player who has a nice outside shot.

Bob McClellan is the college basketball editor for Rivals.com. He can be reached at bmcclellan@rivals.com.




 

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