Syracuse is a Top-Five Team, but Shh – Don’t Tell Boeheim!
Who am I kidding? If last February is any indication, he knows about it, too.
With the early-entry deadline passing on Sunday, and only a few top recruits still unsigned, most of the nation’s teams have a good feel for what their rosters are going to look like come fall. As they are wont to do when milestones like this hit, the experts’ rankings are pouring in, even though the season doesn’t start for six months. What a country!
The early returns show Syracuse as a top-five team according to Andy Katz and Gary Parrish. The prevailing logic is some version of the following: SU simply lost the least and retained the most in terms of production from a good-but-not-great team in a good-but-not-great power conference. In addition, the team has two McDonald’s All-Americans on the way and another freshman who could be the answer to Cuse’s three-point shooting question. Rick Jackson, of course, was the only senior on last season’s team, and there remains a group of young bigs from which a successor should to come, including DaShonte Riley coming off a redshirt year.
I don’t have too many complaints about SU’s position as things stand. There are slight quibbles with each, but that’s neither here or there. Mostly, I think there’s a measure of comfort in the early rankings that is attributable to the fact that the Big East kept more of its top underclassmen than the other big conferences, and the that leads me to believe that its teams are subsequently easier to measure at this stage.
In a conference with 16 schools, only five players tested the waters in the early declaration stage. Kemba Walker of Connecticut, Terrence Jennings from Louisville and Notre Dame’s Carleton Scott were the only ones to leave their names in, as Kevin Jones and Ashton Gibbs decided to return to West Virginia and Pittsburgh, respectively. It’s also worth pointing out that Scott’s decision to stay in the draft has been universally panned, though you never know what’s going through a kid’s mind at an important juncture like this.
There is an odd trend that Syracuse fans are used to by now, the theory being that the Orange tends to underachieve when the bar is set high and outperform when the bar is set low. You can look at the in-depth research one fan conducted, but to save you some time, the paradigm is best exemplified in recent seasons by the 2003 championship team on the low bar-high results side and the 2004-2005 on the disappointing end of things. More seasoned fans may recall the early exits of the SU teams in the late eighties to further entrench this tradition. For a variety of reasons – surprise contributors, injuries, recruits falling short, to name a few – this seems to be how it goes.
More things need to go according to plan than what I’d like to cover in this post (for starters, the depth chart as it pertains to the back of the zone needs to sort itself out), but these rankings don’t figure to change much between now and the first poll of the season. Despite the results that should lead me to be more cautious, I’m hopeful that next season’s squad can live up to the hype. Whether they actually do so or not won’t be determined for several months.