Syracuse Basketball: Key storylines to watch as 2022-23 term gets going

Syracuse basketball (Mandatory Credit: Rich Barnes-USA TODAY Sports)
Syracuse basketball (Mandatory Credit: Rich Barnes-USA TODAY Sports) /

Syracuse basketball is back, my friends! The Orange looks to rebound after a disappointing 16-17 mark a stanza ago, and with the ‘Cuse football team stuck in a three-game losing streak, I’m hopeful that Syracuse basketball can bring some joy to a frustrated fan base.

The Orange, this Monday night beginning at 8 pm from the JMA Wireless Dome, will commence its 2022-23 term by hosting Patriot League member Lehigh.

The ‘Cuse has, on paper at least, what appears to be a less daunting non-conference slate than in 2021-22, and overall I think that the team’s full 2022-23 schedule is fairly favorable.

That’s critical for a Syracuse basketball roster that is vastly remade, with several veteran returnees but also a six-member 2022 recruiting class and a young big-man transfer.

Some things to watch as Syracuse basketball starts its 2022-23 regular season.

Starting rotation
In the Orange’s two exhibition games, the starting five consisted of freshman point guard Judah Mintz, senior shooting guard Joe Girard III, sophomore forward Benny Williams, freshman forward Chris Bell, and senior center Jesse Edwards.

I’d imagine this might be the starting rotation for head coach Jim Boeheim against Lehigh, but I absolutely could see different starting rotations in the future, particularly as it relates to the freshmen.

Top reserves
If the five players we just mentioned are the starters, who are the first reserves coming onto the floor from the bench? I can think of a couple of options for Boeheim.

Freshman wing Justin Taylor, senior guard Symir Torrence, freshman guard/wing Quadir Copeland and freshman forward Maliq Brown all appear quite capable of getting solid minutes.

How deep will Boeheim go in his bench?
Last Tuesday, when Syracuse basketball looked pretty bad in the second half of its exhibition game versus Division II Southern New Hampshire, Boeheim gave minutes to all 12 scholarship players at one point or another in this contest.

Obviously, Boeheim isn’t going to regularly play 12 guys. In recent years, he’s often relied on six to seven players. Could he go longer with his bench this season, perhaps to eight or nine guys? I could envision that happening.

Zone versus man-to-man
Ah, the often-asked question as to whether Boeheim will utilize some man-to-man defense. He did in the Orange’s two exhibition games, and given the athleticism of this stanza’s roster, I could see JB rolling out some man defense here and there.

That being said, I still anticipate that the squad’s primary defense in 2022-23 will be some iteration of the zone.

Calling 3-point shooters
It’s no secret that in 2021-22, the ‘Cuse mightily struggled on defense. But that team could shoot quite well from beyond the perimeter, and replacing the 3-point production of Buddy Boeheim, Jimmy Boeheim and Cole Swider is no easy task.

Obviously, Girard is going to be a huge key from deep. Bell enters his freshman year having a reputation as a good shooter from 3-point land, but he also appears a little streaky.

Taylor absolutely seems to boast a nice-looking shooting stroke from beyond the arc, and Torrence even hit two 3-pointers last week against Southern New Hampshire.

All of these guys face a huge challenge in filling the void on the perimeter as a result of the Boeheim brothers and Swider heading to the professional ranks.

Crashing the boards, limiting turnovers
Because the 2022-23 roster is relatively young (but boasts talent and potential), we’ll likely experience some growing pains with this team, and the underclassmen in particular will have to play through some mistakes.

But it’s important for the Orange to limit its turnovers as much as it can, and also for the ‘Cuse to rely on its own collective quickness to grab easy buckets out in transition following its own deflections and steals on defense.

I think that some of the young big men will be assertive in attacking the offensive glass, but everyone on the roster has to chip in as it pertains to defensive rebounding.

Who will be the leaders besides Joe and Jesse?
I believe that Girard and Edwards are poised for big senior years, and they’re clearly two of the main leaders on this team. Edwards has to stay out of foul trouble, and I love that Girard will be mostly playing shooting guard in 2022-23.

But other than Girard and Edwards, who will step up and be a leader for the Orange, in terms of scoring and other statistical departments?

Mintz has tons of promise. I’m really high on other freshmen like Taylor, Copeland and Brown. Torrence is also a senior and can have a key role as a vital reserve.

And then there’s Williams, who will be getting way more minutes as a sophomore than he did as a freshman. Can he make a big-time sophomore leap? I sure hope so.

Jelling on both ends of the floor
This past Tuesday, when Syracuse basketball got outscored by Southern New Hampshire in the second half, the Orange looked disjointed and totally stagnant on offense.

That’s not a huge surprise, because the ‘Cuse has so many new faces within its line-up. But as the non-conference slate carries on and Atlantic Coast Conference play inches closer, this Syracuse basketball roster had better come together as a cohesive unit.

The Orange’s offense can’t just entail a bunch of hero ball and one-on-one stuff. Let’s see some crisp passing and fluid ball movement. Get Edwards and others involved in the high pick and roll. Don’t just stand around and hoist up 3-point attempts.

I’m excited for hoops to get going. Syracuse basketball isn’t receiving a lot of preseason love from national and ACC pundits, but maybe the ‘Cuse flying under the radar in 2022-23 is a good thing.

I’ll always remind folks. Syracuse basketball in 2002-03 started out that season unranked, and it was a glorious ride for the Orange in March Madness in that term.

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